Raytheon has successfully completed a series of tests of the newly upgraded Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) integrated air and missile defence system.

It is the final of four developmental tests planned for the system, built by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

During testing, the Post-Deployment Build 8 (PDB-8)-configured Patriot system detected, tracked and engaged a cruise missile surrogate target at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

"This latest success keeps the Patriot's PDB-8 upgrade on track for fielding in 2018."

The target was successfully destroyed with a GEM-T interceptor.

The PDB-8 Patriot also intercepted a tactical fighter aircraft target using a PAC-3 missile segment enhancement (MSE) interceptor.

Raytheon integrated air and missile defence vice-president Ralph Acaba said: "Using an interceptor mix to destroy different threats is cost-effective and provides commanders with operational flexibility.

"This latest success keeps the Patriot's PDB-8 upgrade on track for fielding in 2018."

Using the shoot-look-shoot method of fire US Army soldiers from the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade's 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment engaged the threats manually in a very challenging radar environment.

Funded by a 13-nation partnership, the PDB-8 upgrades almost doubled the missile's reach, and improved performance against evolving threats, Lockheed said in a statement.

The Patriot missile is a long-range, all-altitude, all-weather air defence system designed to protect soldiers against advanced threats such as aircraft, tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

Lockheed Martin missiles and fire control PAC-3 programmes vice-president Scott Arnold said: "This test series has demonstrated the effectiveness of the PAC-3 MSE hit-to-kill interceptor against a wide range of targets, including air-breathing targets and ballistic missiles. We're proud to deliver this overmatch capability to our warfighters."

Image: A PAC-3 missile blasts out of its launcher to intercept an airborne target. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.