HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The U.S. Army will grow its Patriot air and missile defense force structure, the head of Space and Missile Defense Command told reporters in an Aug. 8 briefing.
“The Army senior leaders — from the secretary [to] the chief — they recognize the demands on the Patriot force,” Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler said at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium. “We are addressing that through increasing our Patriot units that are out there.”
Karbler would not specifically say how many more Patriot units the Army plans to field, noting he did not want to get ahead of Army senior leadership. “We have a requirement to grow Patriot force structure; we will grow Patriot force structure,” he said.
Congress requested the Army report on whether it needs more Patriot batteries in the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. The Army has 15 Patriot battalions across the active force with funding authorized to build one more.
The demands on the Army’s air defense force has been a longtime issue for the service. Patriot units have traditionally held the record for the highest operational tempos across the service for more than a decade, with deployment times that have sometimes gone above the traditional six- to nine-month rotations.
Even though the service wants to grow air defense units, it is facing headwinds when it comes to recruiting. “We’re going to have the same accessions and recruiting challenges that the rest of the Army, the rest of the services, are facing,” Karbler said. “The Army can throw certain levers to help incentivize a young specialist to come into the Army and come into the air defense branch.”
The Army has received some help including pay incentives and trying to stick to dwell restrictions, but the challenge is recruiting air defenders, Karbler told Defense News last year at the same conference.
One way to recruit air defenders, Karbler said this year, is to “see if there’s opportunities for soldiers who want to re-enlist to enlist, to come into the Patriot force. I can’t just snap my fingers today and make a sergeant, but I can offer a re-enlistment incentive to a young specialist to switch over to air defense.”
Because of these challenges, while the Army will grow Patriot force structure, “we are not going to grow as fast as we want to in terms of meeting some of the tempo challenges that we have here now.”
But, he added, “it’s also not just a Patriot challenge, right? Integrated air and missile defense is a joint endeavor, and so between our joint partners and our allied partners, everybody has contributed to support air and missile defense globally.”
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.