Military Capabilities

Saudi Patriot PAC-3 capability confirmed

22 August 2018

The Patriot battery with four launchers is seen 9 km west of Mecca’s Great Mosque on 17 August. Source: 2018 DigitalGlobe, Inc/© 2018 IHS Markit

The Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces (RSADF) have deployed a Patriot battery with new Lockheed Martin PAC-3 missiles to Mecca, a photograph posted on social media has confirmed.

Published by the unofficial Saudi Armed Forces News Twitter account on 20 August, the photograph is the first to be released showing an RSADF Patriot battery with PAC-3 missiles. The launcher was fitted with four canisters each containing four missiles instead of single-missile PAC-2 canisters.

Mecca’s Royal Clock Tower could be seen in the background, enabling the site of the launcher to be located in the western outskirts of the city.

DigitalGlobe satellite imagery shows the battery had been deployed by 17 August but was not present on 27 May, indicating it is there to protect the Hajj pilgrimage that began on 20 August. The launchers were oriented towards the Yemeni border 570 km to the southeast to defend against ballistic missiles launched by the rebel group Ansar Allah (the Houthis).

Riyadh accused Ansar Allah of endangering Islam’s most sacred site by launching a ballistic missile at Mecca on 9 October 2016. The Saudi military said the missile was intercepted about 69 km from the holy city. The rebels said the missile hit Jiddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, 70 km northwest of Mecca.

Saudi Arabia’s plan to upgrade its Patriot batteries was announced by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in October 2014, when it notified Congress that the kingdom had requested 202 PAC-3 missiles and the associated modification kits for 36 of its launchers. The DSCA released a second notification in July 2015 that Saudi Arabia had requested another 600 PAC-3 missiles. It said the estimated combined cost of the two proposed sales was USD7.15 billion.

A senior Lockheed Martin official confirmed the company had received a contract to produce PAC-3 missiles for Saudi Arabia in October 2015, when he said Riyadh was expected to order another 320 missiles, without revealing how many it previously ordered.

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