Lockheed Martin and its industry partners are preparing for the next and final developmental test of the Medium Extended Air Defense System (Meads), which is designed to provide 360-deg. coverage from air and ballistic threats.

The flight test, set for early November, will include two targets, a QF-4 air-breathing drone and a Lancer tactical ballistic missile (TBM). The targets will converge on the defended area from opposite positions, stressing the 360-deg., X-band fire-control radar. This radar first tracked a TBM in June.

Once the targets are detected – one at an “extreme high” and another at an “extreme low” altitude – the fire control radar will then detect and track all five PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptors fired in addition to the targets for intercepts. Should the first interceptor achieve a kill against the ballistic missile, operators will command a self-destruct of the second.

Protocol calls for a single missile to attack the air breather with two launched to counter the ballistic threat, says Marty Coyne, MEADS development director for Lockheed Martin. “You have three missiles running away from you and two missiles coming in,” says Gregory Kee, general manager of the NATO Meads Management Agency.

“We feel confident. [This] is an incredibly complex test. It is a test that has never been attempted before,” Coyne says.

The test will incorporate use of both Italian and German launchers; they are the same design except the actual truck holding the mission systems, Kee says. MSE missiles from launchers will be required to execute an “over-the-shoulder” maneuver to engage their targets, a feature unique to Meads.

The Meads development project began as a cooperative program with funding from Washington, Rome and Berlin. The U.S., however, opted to end funding for Meads after fiscal 2014, effectively pulling out of the production program.

In its Meads offer to Poland for its air and missile defense system procurement, Lockheed Martin is offering the country a partnership position on the team.

Washington previously paid 58% of the share of the work, with Germany offering 25% and Italy the remaining 17%.

During a recent set of meetings in Warsaw, the U.S. government cleared Polish officials to receive technical data that had previously only been available to the partner nations. If Meads wins in Poland, the company hopes to base a system integration laboratory (SIL) in Poland, mirroring the capability already residing in the U.S.

Washington’s decision “provides the opportunity for Poland to literally jump to the front of the line,” Coyne says.

Lockheed officials say there are at least 20 nations procuring air and missile defenses in the coming 10-15 years.

Once the current development money runs out in fiscal 2014, program officials hope to get permission from Italy and Germany to use the data from the forthcoming trial to look at other, simulated integrated interactions, Coyne says.

The next test will include integration work at a higher level using data from the forthcoming test as a baseline, Coyne says.

These tests would take place at Practica di Mare Air Base outside Rome.