Decisions On MEADS Await In 2014; Shutdown Slated For Late In The Year |

By Sebastian Sprenger

Crucial decisions for the trinational Medium Extended Air Defense System are on tap for 2014, with program supporters hoping for an outright revival of U.S. efforts and opponents waiting for the program to go away to make room for a comprehensive upgrade of the Patriot fleet.

Late in the year, the Pentagon is slated to formally close down the contract with Lockheed Martin and German and Italian companies that accompanied a 2004 deal between the nations to jointly develop the program. But there are several key milestones before that, among them a summer test of whether the integration of higher-echelon capabilities — sensors that are not part of the MEADS program but that supply targeting information — works as planned, and data archiving activities expected to culminate in a review of the entire development phase in September, according to Lockheed Martin.

Integration tests were requested by the governments of Germany and Italy, according to Marty Coyne, the company’s air and missile defense business development director. One drill, a “plug and fight demonstration,” is slated to take place in Italy.

Lockheed officials also aim to formally submit a proposal in the fall to Germany and Italy for a European Follow-on Program, which the company hopes will incorporate much of the MEADS technology developed thus far, according to Coyne. A proposal could “potentially” be submitted to Poland as well, depending on the outcome of acquisition deliberations there, he added. Award decisions are expected by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, a key study by the U.S. government, expected by March, is set to help DOD officials determine what role MEADS components will play in the future of the Army’s air and missile defense modernization plans. Some officials have warmed up to the idea that the technology will play some kind of role given the expenditure of $2.5 billion and a successful intercept test last November, according to sources.

Others continue to bank on the Army’s long-standing opposition to the program, pointing to a DOD plan from last year that said the decades-old Patriot program should be front and center in any upgrade plans. “There will likely be no MEADS components,” one official said. “Continued improvement of Patriot and IBCS will continue but both will be slowed” because of fiscal constraints. “[We] have to catch up with the versions that are being bought internationally,” the official added.

IBCS is short for Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System. The open-architecture program is slated to be the command-and-control centerpiece of the Army’s modernization efforts, with a path already carved out for the closed-architecture Patriot program to function with it.

In Germany, meanwhile, officials are expected to finalize a study by April about the degree to which Berlin should lean on MEADS for its upgrade plans. Raytheon, the Patriot prime contractor, hopes to be considered with a Patriot-based offering designed to replicate a 360-degree radar capability. A solicitation to industry will be based on the results of the German government’s evaluations.

Pentagon leaders decided in early 2011 to end their participation of the MEADS programs when the development phase comes to an end this year. Some lawmakers have since demanded that the United States stop funding it sooner, and the program’s termination has looked likely several times.

But congressional defense authorizers, previously the most vocal MEADS critics, struck a different tone in describing the future program when they authored a fiscal year 2014 defense policy bill last year. DOD has a “substantial interest in making constructive use of any MEADS data and technology owned by the United States,” lawmakers wrote in a report on the legislation, which became law late last month.

via Decisions On MEADS Await In 2014; Shutdown Slated For Late In The Year |