Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control division (MFC) is a major supplier of defense equipment to the Middle East and that business is about to arise to a new level thanks to an anticipated sale of its Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) to Qatar. Air and missile defense (AMD) has been a key requirement for most nations in the region for more than 20 years due to the increase of both foreign-purchased and indigenously-developed theater-range ballistic missile (TBM) inventories.
In November 2012, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced that the government of Qatar had requested a possible sale of two THAAD fire units, 12 THAAD launchers, 150 THAAD interceptors, two THAAD fire control and communications systems, two AN/TPY-2 THAAD radars, and one early warning radar unit. The total cost of these major system components plus the associated support and maintenance equipment is estimated at $6.5 billion. Previously, the UAE decided to acquire the THAAD system.
Orville Prins, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of international air and missile defense, told AIN that “there is a lot going on [in the AMD market] in the Middle East and Asia Pacific as well as in Europe. In the Middle East region threat levels are increasing based on what has been going on in Syria and so there is a continuing high level of interest in what goes on in the AMD arena, particularly the effectiveness against TBMs fitted with WMD warheads.”
“This creates a big interest in hit-to-kill [HTK] weapons in systems like the PAC-3 MSE and THAAD because with an HTK missile the ability to kill WMD warheads may be compromised. Qatar recognizes the importance of this capability and hopefully there will be an LOA signature as soon as they are ready to complete that process,” said Prins.
LM’s MFC produces the PAC-3 MSE missile, which is currently in flight test and is designed to be introduced into new-build PAC-3 systems, as well as being retrofitted into older model Patriot batteries as an upgrade. The next test is currently scheduled for November 20 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
“The MSE missile employs HTK technology developed by MFC,” explained Prins. “What MSE does is it has a two-pulse rocket motor, giving it a extended range over the current CRI missile. We anticipate that the U.S. government will approve production in the U.S., which [allocates] the first year’s production for the U.S. Army. Following this the U.S. government has approved 16 countries for MSE classified briefings and then we anticipate [it] will permit PAC-3 MSE for sale to international customers.
“The UAE is a perfect example of how different AMD systems can compliment one another using a layered air defense architecture,” said Prins. “The UAE is the first country outside of the U.S. to procure THAAD, and Qatar could be the second nation, with other nations also interested in the system based on its capability.”
He added, “We believe THAAD is the only AMD system that can address both endo- and exo-atmospheric threats. What you have here in the UAE is a tiered defense or “defense in depth” arrangement, with PAC-3 being the point defense capability and THAAD giving an area defense coverage. This combination gives you this layered defense capability against both air-breathing and TBM threats.
“The U.S. has added a third layer of AMD with the Aegis Ashore system, ” continued Prins. “All three systems–Aegis, THAAD and PAC-3–were demonstrated as working in tandem with one another during a historic test in October 2012 on Kwajalein [Atoll in the Pacific]. We anticipate that other countries might go for procuring all three of these systems, or in case of Japan, which already has Aegis and PAC-3 and is now thinking about adding THAAD to the mix.”
Another test in September 2013 employed both THAAD and Aegis, “the point being that the U.S. have had several tests involving multiple layers against different types of threats,” he explained.
The next step beyond these current systems is the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), which is a three-nation development program involving Lockheed Martin, MBDA Italia and MBDA Deutschland. The most recent test of the MEADS system was on November 6, involving the simultaneous intercept of an air-breathing cruise missile and a TBM with the two flight paths originating in different, opposing sectors of the MEADS radar’s engagement envelope.
“This test showed that the MEADS system has a radar that operates outside the current sector-scan capability of PAC-3,” said Prins, “and it is this kind of increasing, expanding of the envelope for the point-defense layer of a layered AMD architecture that our customers continue to be interested in.”
Unfortunately, the US has declined to fund MEADS into production.