US military says Patriot test fire in Palau 'a complete success'
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The Patriot air missile defense system successfully intercepted a simulated cruise missile target during a test fire in Palau on Wednesday.
“This was the first operational test of the ability to target Patriot missiles using Air Force F-35 data, and it was a complete success,” said Major Nicholas Chopp, a spokesman for the 94th Air and Missile Defense Command at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.
The interceptor missile was launched from Airai airport around 10 a.m. as scheduled.
“The target traveled out to sea on a southeast track, then executed a 180-degree turn and came toward the airport from the southeast,” Chopp said.
Chopp said the exercise was completed without a hitch. “This is the fourth live-fire we have conducted in the past two years— experience that pays off, and continues to show we are a ready force in the region,” he said.
The Patriot was test fired amid recurring threats from North Korea, which has reportedly launched more than dozen ballistic missile tests this year.
Chopp said the Pacific islands region can rest assured that the U.S. is ready to respond to any potential attack.
“The ability to extend the range that Patriot can detect and engage threats provides an entirely new capability to the joint force, and increases our ability to defend a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added.
The Patriot launch was among the highlights of the Valiant Shield exercise, which began last week and is still in progress in Guam and the Northern Marianas. Palau is involved in the biannual military training for the first time this year.
“Palau's climate is similar to many of the areas we operate Patriot in throughout the theater,” Chopp said. “We worked closely with engineers from the U.S. Marine Corps to ensure our sites were prepared for the rainy weather that is common in Palau and other island nations in the Pacific."
Deploying to multiple locations across the region is part of the Indo-Pacific Command's strategy to enhance the military’s capabilities and readiness.
While the Patriot system is already a combat-proven system, Chopp said the just-concluded exercise tested a new capability to target and engage threats using radar data from a U.S. Air Force F-35 aircraft.
“This is also an opportunity for our air defenders, logisticians, signal (IT) soldiers and other professionals to continue to hone their craft,” Chopp said.
He said the initial results of data analysis indicated a completely successful interception.
“Patriot is the most combat-tested ballistic missile defense system in the world, and the air defenders of 94th AAMDC have successfully conducted four live-fire exercises in the theater in the past two years,” Chopp said. “There are no more competent air defenders in the world.”
The exercise also demonstrated the strength of different forces operating together, Chopp said.
“The Patriot system was moved here by Navy vessel, the interceptors were transported by Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, the target data was provided by an Air Force F-35, and Marines provided engineering and integration support,” he said.