Hundreds of missiles in the Mideast and South Korea replaced due to flaws : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

NEW YORK (AP) - Hundreds of Patriot missiles in the Mideast and South Korea had to be quickly replaced by the Army after tests found potential flaws in the weapons system, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

``A significant number of failures were found'' during testing and the decision was made to replace all ``suspect missiles,'' said Lt. Gen. Paul Kern, a top acquisition officer for the Army.

The number of withdrawn missiles remains classified, but the missiles were pulled over the past 10 days from approximately 11 batteries protecting U.S. forces in South Korea, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the newspaper reported.

A typical battery has about 64 missiles, and unidentified officials told the Journal that the number pulled was certainly in the hundreds.

The part of the system that appears most vulnerable is a radio frequency downlink that allows the missile to communicate with radar guiding its flight, the Journal reported.

U.S. allies, which also rely on the Patriot system, have been informed of the problem. The issue is of particular concern to Israel, which, like the United States, tends to keep more of its Patriot launchers on full alert, the Journal said.

Kern said engineers were working on the problem, but he did not know how long it would take to find a solution. Dave Shea, a spokesman for Raytheon Co., the missile manufacturer, said the company is working with the Army to identify and resolve the problem.

-- Risteard Mac Thomais (, March 23, 2000


(March 24 update)

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Army says it cannot predict how long it will take to find the cause of a Patriot missile glitch that prompted it to hurriedly replace hundreds of them in the Mideast and South Korea.

The Patriot, which gained fame in 1991 in its combat debut against Iraqi Scud missiles fired on Saudi Arabia and Israel, is a key to the defense of U.S. and allied forces in the Gulf and on the Korean Peninsula. Patriots in the Gulf and in South Korea are kept on high alert because of short warning times.

Lt. Gen. Paul Kern, a senior Army acquisitions officer, said Thursday that the decision to quietly replace the missiles with newer ones was made about 10 days ago and the swap-out was completed Tuesday.

``We think we have a pretty good handle on the components that are failing, but we have not confirmed the cause of that yet,'' he said.

None of the seven foreign countries that operate U.S.-made Patriot missile batteries was told about the problem until this week, Kern said. ``I don't think any of them are angry about the situation,'' he said. ``They are concerned, probably, the same as we are, that we find solutions to the problem.''

Asked why Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan and Taiwan were not told about the possible vulnerability of their Patriot missiles, Kern replied: ``We did what we thought was a very fair assessment of keeping the security of our forces and or allies in check, and we think we did it the right way.''

The technical problem, as described by Kern, appears related to the way in which the Patriots are used.

Testing has shown that those kept constantly on high alert - with electrical current keeping them in ``hot status'' ready to fire - have developed problems with a component known as the radio frequency downlink, described by Kern as a ``black box'' that sends signals back and forth from a ground station to guide the missile in flight.

Kern said the manufacturer, Raytheon Co., had given warrantees that the missile to work properly while in ``hot status'' for a maximum of six months. The Army has kept some Patriots in that status for years, he said, while swapping 50 to 70 of them a year for testing and running diagnostic tests on them in the field.

The missiles that developed problems range in age from three to 10 years, Kern said. The components suspected of failing cost as much as $100,000 per missile, but the replacement effort will cost more than that. Kern said he could not estimate the total cost.

The problem and the swap-out of missiles was first reported Thursday by The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper said Patriot missiles were pulled from approximately 11 batteries in South Korea, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Each battery has about 64 missiles, although Kern would not confirm specific numbers.

-- Risteard Mac Thomais (, March 24, 2000.

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