Amid mounting tensions on Israel’s northern border with Syria and as a pending strike against Syria by the U.S. is looming, the IDF has deployed a Patriot defensive rocket battery in Haifa, joining the Iron Dome systems already positioned in various locations in the north.
The Patriot was designed to serve as an anti-aircraft defensive system, but was put into use as an anti-missile system during the first Gulf War in Israel.
During the First Gulf War, the U.S. Army claimed an initial success rate of 80% in Saudi Arabia and 50% in Israel against incoming Iraqi missiles. Those claims were eventually scaled back to 70% and 40%. However, when President George H. W. Bush traveled to Raytheon’s Patriot manufacturing plant in Andover, Massachusetts, during the Gulf War, he declared, the “Patriot is 41 for 42: 42 Scuds engaged, 41 intercepted!” The President’s claimed success rate was thus over 97% during the war.
Except that in April, 1992, Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Reuven Pedatzur of Tel Aviv University, testified before a House committee, stating that, according to their independent analysis of video tapes, the Patriot system had a success rate of below 10%, and perhaps even a zero success rate.
A Fifth Estate documentary quotes former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens as saying the Israeli government was so dissatisfied with the performance of the missile defense, it was preparing its own military retaliation on Iraq regardless of U.S. objections. The Gulf war ended before the operation went into action.
Patriot was deployed to Iraq a second time in 2003, this time to provide air and missile defense for the forces conducting Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Patriot PAC-3, GEM, and GEM+ missiles both had a very high success rate intercepting Al-Samoud 2 and Ababil-100 tactical ballistic missiles. However, no longer-range ballistic missiles were fired during that conflict. The systems were stationed in Kuwait and successfully destroyed a number of hostile surface-to-surface missiles using the new PAC-3 and guidance enhanced missiles.
Patriot missile batteries were involved in three friendly fire incidents, resulting in the downing of allied planes.
Jewish Press staff contributed to this report.