Positive momentum of tri-nation defence system threatened by uncertainty
Italy, Germany and the USA are set to open negotiations this week on the roughly $3 billion, seven-year development phase for the Medium Extended Air Defence System (MEADS), while pressing separately for major design alterations.
The US Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) has cleared the project to enter development. Italy's senate also has given a go-ahead to start the next phase, and a vote by the full parliament is expected later this month.
Germany's parliament is expected to review the project in September, and full approval is considered likely, according to Jim Cravens, president of the Lockheed Martin-led MEADS International consortium.
But the programme's positive momentum is being tempered by schedule and design uncertainty. The US Army originally planned to deploy MEADS in fiscal year 2016, but last year asked to accelerate the programme by four years.
The DAB early this month approved a plan to speed up delivery by just one year, to FY15. Germany and Italy, paying 28% and 17% of programme costs, respectively, each plan to stand-up MEADS units in 2012.
The system is intended to replace Germany's Hawk missile batteries and Italy's ageing Nike air- defence system.
Cravens says all three governments submitted lists of potential changes to the system earlier this year, and industry is now evaluating the costs of implementing these.
Many of the requests are believed to have flowed from lessons learned during last year's Operation Iraqi Freedom, with a common change involving the addition of new elements to the system.
MEADS is being designed to offer 360° coverage against attacking aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles; a three-fold improvement over the existing Patriot air-defence missile 120° surveillance radar capability.
STEPHEN TRIMBLE / WASHINGTON DC
Source: Flight International