The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) last week approved full funding in the defense appropriations measure for fiscal year 2012 for a two- year “Proof of Concept” for the tri-national Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS). 

The fiscal year 2012 budget request included $406.6 million for the air defense system funded by the United States, Germany and Italy, initially intended to replace the Patriot Weapon System. 

However, along with the FY ’12 budget, the Defense Department said it would not procure and field MEADS because of budget constraints and wanted the two-year proof of concept, which would cost $406.6 million the first year, and $397 million in FY ’13. 

The SAC report on defense spending measure noted the proof of concept would culminate in two flight tests of the system. The committee noted the Army and DoD told it that conducting the proof of concept “provides opportunities for the Army to harvest technologies for a competition of the much-needed modernization of its Patriot system,” the committee report said. “It would also allow our Allies to subsequently procure this system to address their capability gaps, thus reducing the burden on U.S. Forces.” 

The MEADS program elements are in system integration and preparing for an initial flight test at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. (Defense Daily, Sept. 14). 

Additionally, the committee was told that unilaterally withdrawing from the MEADS program would require the United States to pay termination liabilities “roughly equal to or greater than the cost of the proposed ‘‘Proof of Concept.” 

According to DoD, the requirement for any one partner to pay the entire termination liability upon unilateral withdrawal was included in the 2004 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

Such a measure is often included in such agreements to protect U.S. interests in case program partners decide to unilaterally withdraw from joint programs. 

Both Italy and Germany have officially stated they will not negotiate a multi-lateral termination of MEADS, the committee was told. 

However, the committee is concerned with the “historical management” of the program and that it has taken three years following the 2008 program Preliminary Design Review to conclude that with a “production delay of at least four years and a U.S. investment of $1,160,000,000 required in addition to the $804,000,000 budgeted in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, the program was simply unaffordable.”

Though the committee has its concerns, "Nevertheless, the Committee understands that despite the U.S. decision to not procure the MEADS system, the United States must fulfill its contractual obligations, and notes further that completing the ‘‘Proof of Concept’’ is the only way that the United States, and the Army in particular, can harvest any technologies for future U.S. requirements. Therefore, the Committee recommended full funding for the MEADS ‘‘Proof of Concept,’" the committee report said.

The MEADS prime contractor MEADS International is a multinational joint venture headquartered in Orlando, Fla. Major partners are MBDA in Italy, LFK in Germany and Lockheed Martin [LMT] in the United States. MEADS is a next-generation, ground-mobile air and missile defense system that incorporates the hit-to-kill Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) Missile, 360-degree radars, netted and distributed battle management and high-firepower launchers.