HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Though money is scarce in the near-term, there may be hope yet for to sell at least a portion of the Medium Extended Air-Defense System (Meads) to the U.S. Army.
The 360-deg. surveillance radar from the tri-national air and missile defense program is the takeaway that has the nearest-term potential for infusion into the U.S. Patriot/arsenal.
At the 15th Space and Missile Defense Conference here, Brig. Gen. Ole Knudson, program executive officer for missiles and space, said he feels the surveillance radar is the most compelling piece of the system for U.S. applicability.
Last year, the Pentagon announced it would end its investment in Meads in 2014, once development wraps up. Knudson says the Pentagon plans to keep relying on Patriot/PAC-3 for another 25-30 years, and the service has begun to start funding some electronics work to keep the system up to date. This leaves the fate of Meads with Germany and Italy, the two other development partners. Through this phase, the Pentagon paid for 58% of the work, with Germany contributing 25% and Italy the remaining 17%.
Meads is a $3.5 billion program to build an advanced, transportable air and missile defense system cooperatively with Berlin and Rome. Because it was designed to be expeditionary, it includes a 360-deg. UHF surveillance radar capability. Traditional Patriot systems have a fixed radar because the employment plan when it was developed called for batteries to be positioned forward of advancing troops. Now that U.S. and allied forces are occupying territories that could face threats from any direction — such as Iraq and Afghanistan — Knudson says it makes sense to have a radar capable of detecting threats from behind.
Lockheed Martin displayed the Meads surveillance radar for the first time publicly at the conference. It contains 144 transmit-and-receive modules, says Marty Coyne, Meads business development director for Lockheed Martin. Tracking is handled by a separate, X-band radar; the transmit-and-receive modules for that sensor are made in Germany.
The surveillance radar, work for which is predominantly handled by Lockheed Martin, will be transported to White Sands Missile Range, N.M., in preparation for a flight test planned by year’s end, Coyne says. This will be the first intercept attempt using Meads; the target will be an air-breather. A ballistic missile intercept is expected next year.
The first Meads flight test was last November. Though the test lacked a target, a simulated threat was detected from behind the near-vertical launcher, facilitating a demonstration of an “over-the-shoulder” launch.