The tri-national Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) successfully conducted its first intercept flight test at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., said Gregory Kee, NATO MEADS Management Agency general manager.

Yesterday morning, the system “detected, tracked, intercepted and destroyed an airbreathing threat,” Kee said during a media call. The system “achieved all the criteria for the test based on our initial analysis.”

Marty Coyne, Business Development director, MEADS International, said the test date was chosen over a year ago. “We hit the date exactly, as exactly as we hit the target.”

MEADS is an advanced, mobile system offering 360 degree air and missile defense.

One test objective was to reduce risk for the next test against a theater ballistic missile to come in the second half of 2013, Kee said.

Calling the successful test “truly a team effort” on the part of the three nations involved in the program–the United States, Germany and Italy–Kee said a transatlantic cooperation and partnership among industry, government came together and “executed this flawlessly.”

Kee said, since 2008, everything the three governments asked the program to do have been executed on time and on budget.

The successful test demonstrates the capabilities that the nations can harvest as they move forward with their future air and missile defense strategies, he said. None of the three nations plan to procure MEADS systems at this point (Defense Daily Oct. 24).

In 2010, the nations directed Kee to demonstrate, prove the system capabilities, and the national armaments directors called for a series of tests to ensure capabilities were captured and documented so the information is there as the three nations move forward with future plans.

The system design and demonstration phase included the missile characterization fly out, yesterday’s intercept flight test, the TBM test scheduled for next year and a series of characterization and ground tests of differing capabilities.

The system will also take part in the Joint Project Optic Windmill exercise in the Netherlands to demonstrate interoperability with the European missile defense architecture.

All of these concluding program efforts will tie the capabilities and elements together and prove to the nations that there is a sound basis as they draw up future plans, Kee said.  

The intercept flight at White Sands included the MEADS launcher, fire control radar, and battle manager, tactical operations center, and the PAC-3/MSE missile to conduct the intercept.

The successful test came just over a year after the Nov. 17, 2011 first flight test with its “unprecedented” over the shoulder launch demonstrating a 360 degree capability for an air and missile defense system (Defense Daily, Nov. 18, Aug. 15 ).

Similar to last year’s “over-the-shoulder” fly out test, Coyne said the MSE missile launched to the South East, nearly 180 degrees from the MQM-107 target in the Northwest. The missile then turned North and was guided to the target where the hit-to-kill missile and seeker “totally destroyed” the incoming target.

The test had several objectives for the system and its elements, and Coyne listed some: to detect and track the target, for the battle manager to develop a fire control solution, to provide launch commands to the launcher and ensure data was flowing properly on the uplink and downlinks, and of course, to intercept the target.

While lifecycle support costs continue to be discussed for the MEADS and Patriot systems, Kee said a key requirement for the program was to reduce operating and support costs for the three nations.

“We have in our design, that we developed and nations approved, demonstrated reduced O&S costs by at least 50 percent,” he said. The design was approved at a critical design review by the three nations in 2010.

Coyne said he didn’t expect anyone to take the program’s word for cost savings.

“We feel strongly that an independent organization should take a look at it.”

The major subcontractors and joint venture partners to MEADS International are MBDA in Italy and Germany, and Lockheed Martin [LMT] in the United States. The NATO MEADS Management Agency is located in Huntsville, Ala.