Israel eliminated US Patriot missiles due to ineffectiveness

Israel announced to stop using the Patriot air defense system in the context that this weapon has intercepted too few targets in decades of operation.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense announced on April 30 that Patriot long-range air defense complexes would be completely eliminated within the next two months but did not reveal the fate of this system. “We are reducing the number of combat batteries until this entire system stops working,” said the commander of Battalion 138, the unit that operates Israel’s Patriot complex.

The Israeli Air Force previously announced that soldiers operating Patriot missiles would be trained to convert to the Iron Dome short-range air defense system. This complex will be replaced by more modern systems such as David’s Sling.

“We realize that we must always move forward and improve defense plans. Innovations in the air defense network will bring better combat and maintenance solutions,” added the commander of Battalion 138.

The Israeli army began staffing US-made Patriot missiles in 1991 and owns 10 MIM-104E batteries, also known as Patriot PAC-2/GEM+. All are deeply upgraded and possess the same features as Washington’s most modern PAC-3 version.

Israel’s Patriot missile first intercepted a target in 2014 when it shot down a Hamas drone. Tel Aviv said that this system has only blocked 10 targets in the past 10 years, including Syrian fighters that violated Israeli airspace in 2014 and 2018.

However, Patriot batteries have repeatedly failed to complete their missions. In July 2016, the Patriot complex launched two missiles at an unidentified UAV in Israeli airspace but did not hit the target. A similar incident occurred again in June 2018 when a Patriot shell missed a Syrian UAV near the border of the two countries, causing it to return safely.

Israeli media said Patriot missiles had been involved in combat a number of times since the conflict broke out in the Gaza Strip, but most of the bullets were fired because the operator misidentified the target.

The Israeli army possesses a powerful air defense network capable of intercepting many targets, such as ballistic missiles in the atmosphere and low-flying cruise missiles.

Today, Tel Aviv’s longest-range shield is the Arrow air defense missile complexes, which were developed in the mid-1990s at a total cost of billions of dollars to deal with the threat from Iran. Below the Arrow is the David’s Sling complex, jointly produced by Israel’s Rafael and America’s Raytheon, capable of shooting down missiles from a maximum distance of 300 km.

The final layer in Israel’s ground air defense network is the Iron Dome system, deployed since 2011, playing the most important task when confronting non-state militia groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.