Since their dramatic success in shooting down Iraqi SCUDs during the Gulf war, Patriot missiles have become a household word for most Americans.
But whether their military triumph will translate into post-war increased sales and production for their prime manufacturer, the Lexington-based Raytheon company, is another story.
According to company spokesperson Jonna Manes, all of the hype has has had little effect on the Patriots' sales. In fact, orders for the million-dollar anti-missile devices have shown no jump since the end of the Gulf War.
And while the U.S. Army will buy just enough Patriot missiles to replace those it used during the conflict, it has no plans to buy more in the future, said David G. Harris, public affairs officer at the U.S. Army missile command in Red Stone, Alabama.
Harris dismissed reports that the Army will increase its stock of the missile, despite the near-flawless record of the Patriots in the Gulf.
"That's just bullshit media," Harris said. "There simply is no long line of people with money waiting to buy Patriot missiles as a result of the war."
With no new orders pouring in from the U.S. Army, Raytheon has been forced to turn to foreign orders to keep its missile sales afloat.
"Many countries were looking at the missile system before the war. Now some are turning up their attention level and coming back to take a second hard look," Manes said. "These things take time."
Countries expressing an interest in Patriot missiles before the outbreak of war in the Gulf included Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel, United Arab Emirates, South Korea and the United Kingdom, spokespersons for the company said.
Raytheon, which must win a nod of approval from the U.S. Army and Congress before it can sell its missiles to foreign countries, most recently signed a contract with the U.S. Army to sell missiles to Saudi Arabia, Manes said.
The $513 million contract promises delivery of eight new missile launching systems to Saudi Arabia before the end of the year, she said.
Italy has also obtained permission to negotiate with Raytheon for the missiles, and Israel has expressed a strong interest in buying them, Harris said.
The U.S. Army will continue to award foreign contracts to Raytheon as long as demand persists, and will buy replacement parts for its own supply of missiles from the company for at least the next two years, he said.
And Raytheon may have cause for optimism for future sales, as several mid-East countries scramble to buy the missiles in the post-war era and an arms race between the Arabs and Israelis continues to escalate.
But whether the war will induce a lasting boom in Raytheon's sales remains to be seen.
"It's too soon to tell whether countries will want to buy more," Harris said. "Patriots are an expensive system."
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