What better way to reassert Nato’s continued air defence priorities in the New Year than to commit a substantial sum of $5.6bn (€5.1bn) to that end?

The military alliance’s Support and Procurement Agency has secured 1,000 Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missiles (GEM-Ts) from the contractor COMLOG, a joint venture between the RTX company Raytheon and MBDA, two of the world’s pre-eminent international missile manufacturers.

Among the beneficiaries are Germany, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain. All but Spain contribute to the German-led European Sky Shield Initiative, a common acquisition programme for collective air defence established in October 2022. Despite Spain’s place outside of the initiative the Iberian country still plans to invest in the latest PAC-3 variant of the Patriot family of missiles – a longstanding staple of the western defence arsenal.

GEM-T, the Patriot Advanced Capability 2 (PAC-2) missile interceptor enhanced for defeating ballistic and cruise missiles as well as enemy aircraft, is a primary effector for the widely-used Patriot air and missile defence system.

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By GlobalData

In addition, GEM-T (track) missiles are distinguished from the GEM-C (cruise) variant by the ‘track-via-missile’ guidance system that allows midcourse correction commands. The missile has a range of 70 kilometres (km) and a maximum altitude greater than 24km. The minimum flight time is less than nine seconds while the maximum is three and a half minutes.

US forces previously deployed Patriot missile systems during Operation Iraqi Freedom – the initial ground invasion of Iraq in 2003. The systems were stationed in Kuwait and destroyed several hostile surface-to-surface missiles using the new PAC-3 and GEM-T missiles.

“In the wake of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Nato has deployed Patriot missile batteries to protect its Allies on its eastern flank. Nato allies have also delivered Patriot systems to Ukraine and are committed to further bolstering Ukraine’s defences,” Nato relayed in a 3 January 2024 statement.

Europe’s Patriot production centres around Germany

“The contract strengthens industrial and military capabilities in Europe. The order volume will enable MBDA to set up a production facility for Patriot missiles in Germany, as well as major subcomponent production,” the managing director of MBDA Germany, Thomas Gottschild, revealed.

Prior to Nato’s acquisition, in October 2023, Army Technology spoke to Bayern-Chemie, a subsidiary of the European contractor MBDA Germany, at its Bavarian ramjet facility. There, the company discussed its plans to re-enter Raytheon’s industrial supplier base providing rocket motors for PAC-2 missiles, as it had done between 1987 and 1996.

When it comes to its Patriot commitments, the head of sales and business development at MBDA Germany, Michael Rieder, observed “we have a lot of infrastructure here [in Bavaria] for it.”

Rieder also noted the use of PAC-2 and PAC-3 throughout the next decade. We can expect the dual use of both versions for the next ten years, until PAC-2 is discontinued in 2032.

This marks the considerable ambition of MBDA Germany to position itself at the centre of European Patriot missile supply chain, as GlobalData projects Europe to be the leading geographic segment in the global missile defence market, accruing a 31.1% revenue share.