As the Army assesses future air and missile defense requirements it must prepare to “ruthlessly” retire legacy air defense systems, such as its Patriot and Stinger systems, a lead modernization official said Tuesday.

“We’re not going to Patriot and Stinger our way to a modernized air defense force. It’s not going to happen. We can’t afford it nor should we,” Brig. Gen. Brian Gibson, director of the Air and Missile Defense Cross-Functional Team, said during remarks at the service’s Fires Conference. “Those things are phenomenal weapon systems but they’re going to go at some point, and they need to go.”

Raytheon’s Patriot is an example of an Army air defense system.
Photo: Raytheon

Gibson specifically said the Army will reach a point where continued upgrades or the addition of new sensors will no longer provide the necessary capabilities required for future operations.

“There’s going to come a point in the not-too-distant future when we’re going to have to field a new missile, whether we want to or not,” Gibson said. “We’ve, rightly, today prioritized developing common mission command and new sensors to expand our options for the joint fires enterprise and to get after better battlefield protection, to give max time for operators and systems to decide and increase our mission control and other things. But there’s a time coming. We need to think our way through it.”

Raytheon Technologies [RTX] currently manufactures both the Patriot and Stinger systems. 

The Army has pursued programs such as the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor to replace the Patriot defense system’s current radar, awarding Raytheon an initial production deal in October 2019 worth upward of $384 million, but has not yet laid out a path for replacing the complete Patriot system (Defense Daily, Oct. 17, 2019). 

Last November, the Army began seeking industry’s input on potential missile interceptor offerings that could replace the current Stinger system as its next Man-Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) capability, with plans to award a contract by fiscal year 2026 (Defense Daily, Nov. 12 2020). 

“The current Stinger inventory is in decline. The Army is conducting a…study which will inform efforts to modernize and to address emerging threats, which may increase the demand for MANPADS capable missiles,” Army officials wrote in last year’s notice, adding that the current Stinger-Reprogrammable Microprocessor will become obsolete in FY ‘23.