WASHINGTON The newest variant of the U.S. Army’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptor successfully destroyed a missile in a March 2 flight test, according to a press release issued the same day by Orbital Sciences Corp., which built the target.

The PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor is being developed by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control of Dallas to replace the current-generation PAC-3 missiles used in the Patriot air and missile defense system. The PAC-3 MSE also was chosen as the interceptor for the Medium Extended Air Defense System that the United States is developing with Germany and Italy, but it remains to be seen whether that system is ever produced.

The PAC-3 MSE’s first intercept test was successfully conducted in February 2010. For the March 2 test at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., a Patriot Target Vehicle built by Dulles, Va.-based Orbital was launched southward on a ballistic trajectory and destroyed during re-entry by the interceptor, the press release said.

The PAC-3 MSE has been in development since 2003. The Army plans to conduct two more intercept tests in 2012 before authorizing initial production of the missiles to begin in 2013, Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Cheryl Amerine said.