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Patriot Missile Costs Will Be Higher By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fielding a new, more sophisticated version of the Patriot missile that gained acclaim in the 1991 Gulf War will cost $2.3 billion more than previously estimated, the Pentagon said Thursday.
That is about a 30 percent increase, to a total of $10.1 billion, for the version known as Patriot PAC-3.
About half of the added cost reflects an increase in the number of missiles the Army plans to buy, from 560 to 1,012. The Army hopes to expand the number even more, perhaps to about 1,300, if the cost can be covered.
The other portion of the extra cost is due to a higher estimate of engineering costs and a decision to buy the new missiles over a longer period of time. Some manufacturing efficiencies are lost in a longer buy period.
The new Patriot system is expected to be ready for use in limited numbers next year and will eventually replace the air defense missiles now deployed with U.S. troops in South Korea, Germany and the Persian Gulf. The current Patriot system also has been sold to Japan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.
The Patriot is the only weapon now available to U.S. forces for shooting down ballistic missiles like the Scud missiles that Iraq launched against Saudi Arabia and Israel during the Gulf War. The Pentagon believes an increasing number of countries hostile to the United States will acquire ballistic missiles in the future.
Last month the Army disclosed that it had to hurriedly replace hundreds of Patriot missile systems in the Gulf and South Korea because of a glitch that raised questions about whether they would work in combat. The glitch appeared related to the fact that Patriot missiles have been on high alert there for long periods.
The new PAC-3 system has upgraded its radar and the firing station in which troops operate the system. It also has a newly designed missile that destroys its target by ramming into it at high speed. The current Patriot missile uses a fragmentation warhead that explodes near the target. The newer system, known as ''hit-to-kill'' technology, is supposed to be more effective against enemy missiles armed with nuclear, chemical or biological warheads. It also is capable of hitting low-flying cruise missiles.
The higher estimated cost of fielding the PAC-3 system was included in a longer Pentagon report released Thursday on several major weapons programs. Among other program cost increases reported were:
-- The Crusader artillery system. Development costs increased by nearly $1.4 billion, to $4.3 billion. This was attributed mainly to changes in the program resulting from the Army's decision last year to ''transform'' itself into a lighter, more mobile and more easily deployable force for war as well as peacekeeping.
-- The Navy's new-generation destroyer, designated the DD-21. Development costs jumped by $2 billion, to $5.2 billion. The Navy has estimated the total cost of building 32 of these destroyers will be $25 billion.
-- The Pentagon's national missile defense project. A little over $1.5 billion was added to reflect the decision made last year to buy 100 missile interceptors instead of 20. This and other cost increases recently acknowledged by the Pentagon have pushed the total program cost to $20.2 billion. The Pentagon hopes to have it ready for use by 2005.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), April 13, 2000