MEADS Partners Eye Poland as Savior

 - May 29, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Meads includes Lockheed Martin’s PAC-3 MSE development of the Patriot missile, but the tri-national program has not gained production funding. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

The tri-national Medium Extended Air Defense System (Meads) remains in limbo, with the $3.4 billion nine-year development program scheduled to conclude this year and no production order in sight from the U.S., Germany or Italy. But at a briefing last week during the ILA Berlin airshow, program officials said that Meads meets Poland’s stated air and missile defense (AMD) requirement. The Meads International industrial consortium, which currently comprises Lockheed Martin and MBDA’s German and Italian companies, is offering to make Poland an equal partner.

Meads has been developed as a replacement for the Patriot and other air defense systems, although Raytheon contends that the Patriot remains viable through a continuous upgrading process. The U.S. government apparently agrees, having decided in 2011 not to fund production of Meads. But in Berlin, Lockheed Martin and MBDA officials noted that no other ground-mobile AMD system has demonstrated a 360-degree dual intercept of a tactical ballistic missile and an air-breathing target approaching from opposite directions. This was a reference to the third Meads flight-test last November, at the White Sands Missile Range in the U.S. All three have been successful, and Meads is now a mature system, according to program officials. They are now planning a system demonstration in Italy later this year that will be “comprehensive” and during which “new battle management capabilities will be shown.”

Meads incorporates 360-degree radars, networked battle management, easily transportable launchers and the hit-to-kill PAC-3 MSE missile to defeat the entire threat spectrum, including cruise missiles, tactical ballistic missiles and air-breathing threats, the partners say. To cut support costs, Meads was designed to use half the manpower and less maintenance than current systems. It incorporates the latest Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) subsystem. Thomas Homberg, managing director of MBDA Germany, said that it is “essential” for Germany and Italy to benefit from the significant investment made in Meads. Those countries contributed 25 percent and 16.7 percent, respectively, to the development, with the U.S. providing the other 58.3 percent.

Poland is being offered “significant co-development and co-production workshare,” and access to the “very promising global AMD market,” the Meads partners said.