Lockheed Martin's Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile segment enhancement (PAC-3 MSE) interceptor has achieved initial operational capability (IOC) designation from the US Army.

The PAC-3 MSE achieved IOC two years after receiving Milestone C approval. Lockheed Martin received the first US contract for the technology in 2014.

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control PAC-3 programmes vice-president Scott Arnold said: “This is an extremely significant milestone in the maturity of our PAC-3 MSE interceptor, providing the warfighter with a more advanced hit-to-kill interceptor against the full spectrum of lower-tier threats.

“PAC-3 MSE reaching IOC is important because it gives our soldiers an operational capability against imminent threats.”

Lockheed's high-velocity interceptor employs hit-to-kill technology to defend against incoming threats, including tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs), cruise missiles and aircraft.

The PAC-3 MSE includes a larger, more powerful dual-pulse solid rocket motor for added thrust, as well as larger fins and other structural modifications to increase agility.

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"PAC-3 MSE reaching IOC is important because it gives our soldiers an operational capability against imminent threats."

The improvements made to PAC-3 nearly double the interceptor's reach and dramatically improve its performance against evolving threats.

In 1994, the US Army selected PAC-3 to increase the intercept capability in the Patriot system against TBMs, the company said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract to increase the altitude and range of the PAC-3 missile in 2003.

Besides PAC-3 MSE, Lockheed Martin's other interceptors, including MHTK, THAAD and MEADS systems, also employ hit-to-kill technology to achieve intercepts at higher altitudes and ranges.

Image: PAC-3 MSE uses hit-to-kill technology to defend against incoming threats. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin.