The Patriot missile system is fast becoming the standard backbone for a country’s air defence system in an age of wide-ranging strike capabilities. The Swiss are the latest in a string of countries that have adopted the Patriot system in earnest.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has procured Patriot missile system fire units from Raytheon Missiles and Defence in a military foreign sale contract on behalf of the Swiss Government on 28 March. The production of Patriot missile systems is a costly process, with funds reaching $1.2bn. Work will be performed in Switzerland, Germany and several locations across the US, with a completion date of December 31, 2032.

The Patriot is in service with the US and allied countries including Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Poland, Sweden, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Romania, Spain, and Taiwan.

Most recently, the Patriot has been seen as a crucial part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ defiance against invading Russian forces. It was at the centre of debate in recent months as it was initially considered an escalatory action for the US to supply Ukraine with the Patriot, which serves to testify the effectiveness of the missile defence system.

The Patriot

Patriot (MIM-104) is a long-range, all-altitude, all-weather air defence system to counter tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft. It is produced by Raytheon in Massachusetts and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Florida.

The missile has a range of 70km 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.

It is telling that the DoD approved the possible sale of equipment and services worth $100m to help Taiwan maintain and improve the existing Patriot air defence system in February 2022 considering the threat against its autonomy from neighbouring China. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin were named prime contractors for this five-year programme.

Swiss adoption

According to GlobalData, Swiss spending on the Patriot system is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.43% between 2022-25.

The combined expenditure of militaries that use the MIM-104F Patriot model alone is expected to grow from $1.18bn in 2023 to $2.14bn in 2033, at a steady CAGR of 1.32%.

As it stands, Europe’s Patriot users have hitherto been clustered around central and eastern Europe, namely Germany, Poland, Romania, and of course Ukraine. It is no coincidence that they cluster near the expanding Russian sphere of influence.

Switzerland’s adoption of the American missile defence system not only demonstrates the popularity of the system, but it could also mark a trend for the use of the Patriot across western Europe as the new adopter – a small and famously neutral country – arms their airspace to the teeth.

Strengthening continental airspace

Many European countries seek to preserve the rules-based order that the US leads to promulgate on the world stage. Part of many military strategies is to establish an interdependent and interoperable operations with their allies and partners as the geopolitical divide deepens.

This interdependent strategy calls upon a policy of commonality in military resources. The wider procurement of the American Patriot system is largely part of this as Europe looks to protect its skies from the encroaching Russian threat in Ukraine.

Original equipment manufacturer, Raytheon Missile and Defence, emphasise the need for more integrated “global interoperability. Countries with Patriot can – and do – train together. And if need be, they can operate together in combat”.