Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS)
MEADS International was selected in 1999 by NAMEADSMA, a chartered organization of NATO, to develop MEADS. A multinational joint venture headquartered in Orlando, Fla., MEADS International's participating companies are Lockheed Martin [LMT], MBDA Italia, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., Germany's LFK.
MEADS consists of Lockheed Martin's PAC-3 missile, a lightweight launcher and a 360-degree fire control radar.
MEADS is envisioned to provide a maneuverable missile defense system to protect allies and troops on the move in a field of operations from tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.
The United States, Germany and Italy are financing the MEADS program in shares of 55, 28 and 17 percent, respectively. Whether that partnership could expand remains a question. Britain, for example, previously expressed interest in joining MEADS when it entered the design and development phase. Also, there has been some hint the French may have an interest in the system down the road. France was one of the original participants in MEADS, but pulled out of the program very early on.
For several years program observers have questioned the ability of the MEADS program to succeed given the complexity of the international team and continuing funding challenges. However, the program appears to have reached a point where the technology is in hand and the joint effort will transition relatively smoothly into the development phase. The Pentagon's Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) in July signed off on plans for the joint international program. However, the DAB did raise some questions about cost, schedule and ultimate plans for integration into the overall missile defense architecture. Meanwhile, the program appears to be on a clear track from a technical standpoint. MEADS in August demonstrated its ability to acquire, classify, track and destroy simulated aircraft and missile targets in a demonstration at Lockheed Martin facilities in Syracuse, N.Y. The objective of the demonstration was to link hardware, software and end-to-end simulations, to validate end item plug-and-fight communications and to engage and destroy simulated air-breathing and ballistic missile threats. Proving successful integration and control of a simulated PAC-3 missile using sensor and control elements in the MEADS architecture represents a major step in advancing the system closer toward system design and development, Lockheed Martin said. All systems worked as planned and verified the MEADS intra-system plug-and-fight concept and the communications software design, the company added. MEADS is currently in a 32-month risk reduction phase that started in 1999. At the end of this phase, a final system demonstration is slated to take place in Italy utilizing the multi-functional control radar. During that demonstration, MEADS will track and engage a live target as further evidence of the system's maturity, the company noted. One sticking point in the program could be the recurrence of technology transfer issues that have raised concerns. Technology transfer issues have plagued the multinational program on a minor level for some time with some problems surfacing in the release of U.S. technology for use by the full international partnership. However, the team has put in place some special security provisions to ensure data on the PAC-3 missile and other aspects of the system are used solely for the MEADS effort. Nonetheless, these hurdles are not expected to impede the overall development effort. MEADS International reported in July it had submitted its business management proposal to begin the design and development phase. Submitted to the NATO MEADS Management Agency, the proposal culminates five months of activity to provide cost and management information to develop MEADS. The contract is planned to begin in 2004 and would extend the program for seven years.