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Lockheed says wins first production order for new PAC-3 missiles

WASHINGTON, March 28 (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp has won a U.S. Army contract worth $611 million to build 92 missiles and 50 launcher modification kits, the company's first production contract for a new enhanced missile designed to upgrade the Patriot missile defense system.

The Pentagon announced the contract modification late Friday, and said a total of $874 million, including funding from fiscal 2013 and 2014, was now available for Lockheed's work on the new missiles through May 31, 2016.

Lockheed's Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (PAC-3 MSE) adds a larger, more powerful motor to extend the missile's reach by 50 percent, and larger fins and other structural modifications to help the weapon intercept faster and more sophisticated ballistic and cruise missiles.

Lockheed said the missile enhancements could be applied to every Patriot PAC-3 system now in use around the world.

"These enhancements are the natural, pre-planned evolution of a system that was first demonstrated 20 years ago," said Scott Arnold, vice president of PAC-3 programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "Every current Patriot-using nation is a candidate to upgrade their PAC-3 systems to the PAC-3 MSE." (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Diane Craft)