Lockheed Martin-led MEADS International has received a long-awaited contract to develop the Medium Extended Air-Defence System (MEADS), although Germany has yet to sign the tri-national memorandum of understanding covering the $3 billion design and development phase.

Following US and Italian signing of the MoU last week, MEADS International received a letter contract allowing development work to begin. German parliamentary approval to join the programme is expected in December or January.

"The letter contract is a bilateral between the USA and Italy that provides for industry in Germany to participate until the German parliament approves the programme and signs the MoU," says executive vice-president Axel Widera. MEADS International comprises Lockheed Martin, Germany's EADS/LFK and MDBA-Italia.

MEADS will replace Patriot air-defence systems in the USA and Germany and Nike Hercules systems in Italy. The USA, with 58% of the programme, will field 48 fire units in 16 systems, with the first unit to be equipped by 2014. Germany, with 25%, will acquire 24 fire units, while Italy, with 17%, will take nine, with both aiming for an in-service date of 2012, says MEADS International president Jim Cravens.

Flight testing will begin in 2011, with 10 development and operational test firings planned. Half the tests will involve multiple intercepts. The three operational-test flights are set for the last six months of the development programme.

The baseline missile for MEADS is the hit-to-kill PAC-3 developed by Lockheed Martin for the Raytheon Patriot air-defence system, but the intent is to move to the PAC-3 missile segment enhancement upgrade, says Cravens, a longer-range, more manoeuvrable upgrade that started development last year.


Source: Flight International