On Tuesday, the Aviation and Missile Center under the US Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) posted a photo on Twitter of a Low-Cost Extended Range Air Defense (Lower-AD) missile taking flight.
The Lower-AD is “an affordable interceptor intended to fill the capability gap between short-range man-portable air defense systems and Patriot high-performance interceptors.”
According to the United States Army, Lower-AD will have a range of more than 25 kilometers and will primarily be used against drones and subsonic cruise missiles, leaving the Patriot interceptor to focus on larger threats
In September 2019, US Patriot systems in eastern Saudi Arabia were unable to engage a swarm of suicide drones that attacked two Saudi oil facilities because they approached so low to the horizon that the sky-scanning Patriot batteries, which we’re looking for ballistic missiles and high-flying threats, literally couldn’t spot them.
As a result, the facilities were heavily damaged and oil production in the world’s most productive country was dented for several days. Cruise missiles typically skim the surface, approaching their targets in a similar manner.
However, even if a drone did wander into a part of the sky a Patriot battery’s radar could see, it’s not very cost-effective to waste a $3 million missile on a “quadcopter that cost 200 bucks from Amazon.com,” as US Army Gen. David Perkins, then commander of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command.
The Lower-AD missiles will cost as little as $150,000 each.