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The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) is a ground-mobile air and missile defense system intended to replace the aging Patriot missile system through a NATO-managed development. The USA, Germany, and Italy are contributing toward the project.
Under development by Germany, Italy, and the United States, MEADS is a ground-mobile air and missile defense (AMD) system intended to replace Patriot systems in the United States and Germany, and Nike Hercules systems in Italy. MEADS is designed to address the shortcomings of fielded systems and to permit full interoperability between the U.S. and allied forces. It is the only medium-range AMD system to provide full 360-degree coverage against tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, aircraft, and large-caliber rockets.
MEADS provides ground-mobile air and missile defense with expanded coverage. The system provides enhanced force protection against a broad array of third-dimension threats. Improved interoperability, mobility, and full 360-degree defense capability against the evolving threat represent are key aspects. MEADS is the first air and missile defense (AMD) system that provides continuous on-the-move protection for maneuver forces. MEADS also provides area defense, homeland defense, and weighted asset protection. It also meets the requirements of Germany’s “capabilities oriented” air defense concept.
MEADS incorporates the Lockheed Martin hit-to-kill PAC-3 PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missile in a system including 360-degree surveillance and fire control sensors, netted-distributed tactical operations centers, and lightweight launchers.
Truck-mounted MEADS elements drive or roll on and off C-130 and A400M transport aircraft so they can quickly be deployed to a theater of operations. Compared to existing systems, MEADS can defend up to 8 times the coverage area with far fewer system assets, which also permits a substantial reduction in deployed personnel and equipment. MEADS reduces demand for airlift and gets into the theater faster, to begin defending sooner.
The minimum MEADS engagement capability requires only one launcher, one battle manager, and one fire control radar to provide 360-degree defense of troops or critical assets. As more system elements arrive, they automatically and seamlessly join the MEADS network and build out capability.
The prime contractor, MEADS International, is a multinational joint venture headquartered in Orlando, Florida. Its participating companies are MBDA Italia, MBDA Deutschland GmbH, and Lockheed Martin. The company initially won a competitive downselect to develop the MEADS system in 1999, but the program could not be started because the losing competitor filed two successive protests. In 2001, a $216 million Risk Reduction Effort contract was awarded to incorporate a new interceptor approach. In May 2005, MEADS International signed a definitized contract valued at $2 billion plus €1.4 billion for MEADS design and development. This contract is expected to be completed in 2014. The United States funds 58 percent of the MEADS Design and Development program, and European partners Germany and Italy provide 25 percent and 17 percent respectively.
The German Bundeswehr completed an analysis of air defense alternatives in 2010 and strongly recommended MEADS as the basis for improving Germany’s missile defense shield and as Germany’s contribution to the European Phased Adaptive Approach. In February 2011, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that it intended to fulfill its commitment to complete the design and development effort, but that it would not procure the MEADS system for budgetary reasons. In early 2011, it was announced that Germany would only fund the system up to development. It is not yet determined if funding for procurement will follow.
In October 2011, the National Armaments Directors of Germany, Italy, and the United States approved a contract amendment that funds two flight intercept tests, a launcher/missile characterization test, and a sensor characterization test before the MEADS Design and Development contract ends in 2014.
The United States will continue to fund development of MEADS until 2014, but chose to further upgrade its Patriot missile system over buying MEADS for budgetary reasons. However, Poland is reported to be interested in joining the MEADS partnership. Japan is also a possible entrant. Lockheed Martin has reported that two international customers have started discussions about becoming involved in development and production. The United States has also set up a review team to recommend selection of end items and technology for further use.
In September 2013, MEADS was certified for operation with its Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system. Mode 5 is more secure and provides positive line-of-sight identification of friendly platforms equipped with an IFF transponder to better protect allied forces.
The MEADS air and missile defense system is composed of six major equipment items.
Multifunction Fire Control Radar (MFCR) – an X-band, solid-state, phased array radar using element-level transmit/receive modules. The active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar provides precision tracking and wideband discrimination and classification capabilities. For extremely rapid deployments, the MEADS MFCR can provide both surveillance and fire control capabilities until a surveillance radar joins the network. The MFCR uses its main beam for uplink and downlink missile communications. An advanced Mode 5 identify friend-or-foe subsystem supports improved threat identification and typing.
Surveillance Radar (SR) – the UHF MEADS Surveillance Radar is a 360-degree active electronically steered array radar that provides extended range coverage. It provides threat detection capability against highly maneuverable low-signature threats, including short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and other air-breathing threats.
Battle Management, Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence (BMC4I) Tactical Operations Center (TOC) – the MEADS TOC controls an advanced network-centric open architecture that allows any combination of sensors and launchers to be organized into a single air and missile defense battle element. Through a capability called plug-and-fight plug-and-fight, sensors, shooters, or other battle managers simply act as nodes on the network. From the MEADS battle manager, a commander can add or subtract nodes as the situation dictates without shutting down the system.
Launcher and Reloader – the lightweight MEADS launcher is easily transportable, tactically mobile, and capable of rapid reload. It carries up to eight PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) Missiles and achieves launch readiness in minimum time. A MEADS reloader is similar but lacks launcher electronic systems.
Certified Missile Round (PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement and canister) – The PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missile is the baseline interceptor for MEADS. The interceptor increases the system's range and lethality over the baseline PAC-3 missile, which was selected as the primary missile for MEADS when the design and development program began in 2004. The MSE missile increases the engagement envelope and defended area by using more responsive control surfaces and a more powerful rocket motor.
In Germany, the PAC-3 missile is expected to be supplemented by IRIS-T SL as secondary missile for ground-based medium range air defense. It is based on the IRIS-T air-to-air missile. The shorter range IRIS-T SLS system uses unmodified IRIS-T air-to-air missiles launched from standard LAU-7 aircraft launchers four of which are mounted onto an all-terrain launch vehicle while the medium-range IRIS-T SL missile is equipped with an enlarged rocket motor, datalink, and jettisonable drag-reducing nose cone.
In the BMC4I TOC, plug-and-fight flexibility lets MEADS exchange data with non-MEADS sensors and shooters. The same capability lets MEADS move with ground forces and interoperate with allied forces. Through interoperability features designed into the system, MEADS will dramatically improve combat effectiveness and situational awareness, reducing the potential for fratricide. MEADS system elements can seamlessly integrate into each nation’s, or NATO’s, combat architecture as required.
Units can be dispersed over a wide area. Command and control of launchers and missiles can be handed over to a neighboring battle management unit while the initial systems are moved, maintaining maneuver force protection. Plug-and-fight connectivity lets MEADS elements attach to and detach from the network at will, with no requirement to shut the system down.
The MEADS plug-and-fight capability enables command and control over other air and missile defense system elements through open, non-proprietary standardized interfaces. MEADS implements a unique ability to work with secondary missile systems if selected, and to evolve as other capabilities are developed. No AMD system has previously done this.
In July 2010, the MEADS BMC4I demonstrated its interoperability with the NATO Air Command and Control System (ACCS) during tests using the Active Layer Theatre Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) Integration Test Bed being developed by NATO. The test was an early maturity demonstration for the MEADS BMC4I capability.
In August 2010, the MEADS program completed an extensive series of Critical Design Review (CDR) events with a Summary CDR at MEADS International. Reviewers from Germany, Italy, the United States, and the NATO Medium Extended Air Defense System Management Agency (NAMEADSMA) evaluated the MEADS design criteria in a comprehensive series of 47 reviews.
In December 2010, the first MEADS launcher and Tactical Operations Center were displayed in ceremonies in Germany and Italy before initiating system integration tests at Pratica di Mare Air Force Base in Italy.
In November 2011, it was announced that the MEADS Multifunction Fire Control Radar had been integrated with a MEADS TOC and launcher at Pratica di Mare Air Force Base. The objectives of the integration test series were to demonstrate that the MEADS TOC could control the MEADS MFCR in coordination with the MEADS Launcher as initial operational proof of the plug-and-fight capability. The MFCR demonstrated key functionalities including 360-degree target acquisition and track using both dedicated flights and other air traffic. Then, at White Sands Missile Range, MEADS demonstrated an unprecedented over-the-shoulder launch of the PAC-3 MSE missile against a simulated target attacking from behind. It required a unique sideways maneuver, demonstrating a 360-degree capability. The missile executed a planned self-destruct sequence at the end of the mission after successfully engaging the simulated threat.
In November 2012 at White Sands Missile Range, MEADS detected, tracked, intercepted, and destroyed an air-breathing target in an intercept flight test. The test configuration included a networked MEADS Tactical Operations Center, lightweight launcher firing a PAC-3 MSE, and a 360-degree MEADS Multifunction Fire Control Radar, which tracked the MQM-107 target and guided the missile to a successful intercept.
Several progress milestones were demonstrated during 2013, culminating in a 360-degree dual-intercept test that went beyond initial contract objectives. In April, the MEADS Surveillance Radar acquired and tracked a small test aircraft and relayed its location to a MEADS TOC, which generated cue search commands. The MFCR, in full 360-degree rotating mode, searched the cued area, acquired the target, and established a dedicated track.
In June, during six days of testing, MEADS demonstrated network interoperability with NATO systems during Joint Project Optic Windmill (JPOW) exercises. MEADS demonstrated battle management capability to transmit, receive, and process Link 16 messages and to conduct threat engagements.
In November, MEADS intercepted and destroyed two simultaneous targets attacking from opposite directions during a stressing demonstration of its 360-degree AMD capabilities at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. All elements of the MEADS system were tested, including the 360-degree MEADS Surveillance Radar, a networked MEADS battle manager, two lightweight launchers firing PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) Missiles and a 360-degree MEADS Multifunction Fire Control Radar (MFCR). The flight test achieved all criteria for success.
The first target, a QF-4 air-breathing target, approached from the south as a Lance missile, flying a tactical ballistic missile trajectory, attacked from the north. The Surveillance Radar acquired both targets and provided target cues to the MEADS battle manager, which generated cue commands for the MFCR. The MFCR tracked both targets successfully and guided missiles from launchers in the Italian and German configuration to successful intercepts.
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