So far, besides an apparently spectacular record against Iraqi missiles, the Patriot has shot down a British Tornado, locked onto an American F-16 (which quickly destroyed the targeting radar with a HARM), and is under investigation as the possible cause of a shot-down F-18 Hornet from the USS Kitty Hawk. What gives? Well, according to this, the newest version of the Patriot, the PAC-3, never completed its operational testing phase.

Victoria Samson, a research associate at the Center for Defense Information, said some of the answers to the Hornet tragedy will depend — if a U.S. missile was involved — on which version of the Patriot was fired.

Several versions are on the battlefield, she said, and the radar control and targeting is different for each one. Unfinished testing could be a factor, too, Samson said from the Washington, D.C.-based group, which studies high-tech military hardware.

“I think that (friendly fire incidents) are unavoidable, but I think there are ways you can try to ameliorate it,” Samson said. “In the Patriot’s case, it did not finish operational testing, and there were concerns about its capability. … It’s not surprising these problems keep popping up.”

I realize that war often requires cutting corners, and I can’t really say whether this rush to the battlefield was warranted. But some at the Pentagon want to skip much of the operational testing for the new national missile defense program. What will that manage to shoot down if it has the same types of problems as the improved Patriots? Just wondering.