HUNTSVILLE – It’s been 30 years since the country was introduced to the Patriot defense system during the Gulf War. The Patriot, developed on Redstone Arsenal, routinely intercepted Iraq’s Scud missiles and blasted them out of the air. Those that got through often missed targets.
Innovative students at Auburn University at the time didn’t miss their chance when a visiting team came calling for a basketball game. When an opponent’s aim was way off, instead of the usual cry of “Air ball!’’ the Tigers’ fans came up with “Scud ball!’’
Three decades later, the Patriot is still in play albeit in an ongoing advanced capacity. Boeing, which recently delivered its 5,000th seeker guidance component used by the Patriot surface-to-air defense system, is expanding its factory that produces the data gathering seeker that enables the missile to identify, track and intercept advanced air and missile threats.
The 35,000-square-foot expansion of the facility that produces the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) seeker will up production by more than 30% to meet increasing air and missile defense needs worldwide.
“I can tell you with absolute certainty that right here on this campus and also in Alabama what’s done really matters,’’ Jim Ryan, director of Boeing’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Portfolio, said during a news conference at the Jetplex Industrial Park. “It matters a lot. It matters to a lot of people. The high performance seeker that we build at this site, it’s battle tested.
“You’re gonna read about it every weekend. It’s battle tested and provides critical guidance to the Patriot missile interceptors used in service to air defense systems across the globe.’’
The Patriot is used in military conflicts across the globe.
“It’s not an overstatement to say that the Patriot Missile saves us,’’ said Ryan, a veteran. “And that mission is why we do it. At Boeing, we support the mission. It’s also why we have such a large contingent of veteran employees that work at Boeing. Like myself, many veteran employees came to Boeing to continue the mission of service.’’
U.S. Rep. Dale Strong was at the ceremony with Madison County Commission Chair Mac McCutcheon, Mayors Tommy Battle of Huntsville and Paul Finley of Madison, State Reps. Parker Moore and Terry Collins, former state Majority Leader Clay Schofield, and representatives from the offices of Sens. Tommy Tuberville and Katie Britt.
“This is the kind of growth that we like to see right here in North Alabama,” Strong (R-Monrovia) said. “The work that will be completed here is absolutely essential in protecting the warfighter and our allies. From the growing threats we are seeing across our globe, PAC-3 is able to defend the airspace using combat proven technology made possible with the seekers produced right here.
“The expansion is not only important to the city of Huntsville, but for the great state of Alabama as it continues to demonstrate this is the best place in the nation for aerospace, aviation and defense industries.”