Army claims perfect missile interception record in Iraq war

The Army has formally concluded that it successfully shot down every Iraqi ballistic missile it tried to intercept during combat this year, but officials have decided to delay releasing the information used to reach that conclusion.

Lt. Gen. Joseph Cosumano, who heads the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, told reporters for the first time last week that the Army's analysis showed that its Patriot missile interceptors were successful against all nine Iraqi missiles they engaged.

"The data shows that it hit them nine for nine. That has not yet been released," he said.

"In almost all cases, there is scientific data that shows [the intercepts]. You can almost see the breakup" of the Iraqi missiles, he said.

Cosumano said, however, that a public briefing on the assessment and its results would not yet be made, saying the decision on when that would occur has been turned over to the U.S. Central Command, which separately is investigating three friendly fire incidents involving Patriot batteries during the conflict.

One Army official told Global Security Newswire that the assessment's release could be expected in "weeks rather than days."

Since the war, various Army officials have said the Patriot perfectly defended U.S. forces in the region because it successfully "engaged" nine Iraqi missiles, meaning it attacked the Iraqi missiles and none of the target missiles caused any damage.

Senior officials including Cosumano, however, also cautioned that conclusions about the Patriot's record of actually intercepting Iraq missiles mid-air would need to wait till the release of an after-action assessment of radar and other information conducted by the Army and the U.S. Central Command.

Sparking controversy following the 1991 Gulf War, senior U.S. officials cited high Patriot success rates during that war, but later analyses suggested that far fewer Patriots actually intercepted their targets or killed the warheads.

"We took the lessons learned from Desert Storm [and] put the data recording capabilities in those weapons systems," said Brig. Gen. John Urias, deputy commanding general for acquisition of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

Cosumano reiterated previous statements that not all of the Patriot recorders were operating during the nine intercepts, but said other data including from radar on Navy Aegis ships had been used in the assessment.