WASHINGTON — In its final test with U.S. involvement, a multinational air and missile defense system intercepted and destroyed two targets attacking from opposite directions Nov. 6, according to officials from the Lockheed Martin-led joint venture that still intends to field the system with continued German and Italian support and possibly from Poland. 

The first target, an air-breathing target, approached from north of the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, while the second target, a Lance missile, attacked from the south. The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) radar acquired both targets and guided missiles to intercept.

“No fielded ground‐mobile air and missile defense system can intercept targets from two directions at the same time, as MEADS did today,” Gregory Kee, general manager of the NATO MEADS Management Agency, said in a press release Lockheed Martin issued following the test.

Officials stress that MEADS is the only air and missile defense system that can detect and intercept threats coming from any direction, a capability known as 360-degree coverage. Riki Ellison, president of the Missile Defense Advocacy Association, said many countries in Asia, including Guam, Japan and Taiwan, face threats from the north, south, east and west.

MEADS is being developed by Orlando, Fla.-based MEADS International, which is led by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control of Dallas and also includes MBDA-Italia and LFK of Germany.

The U.S. Defense Department announced in 2011 it would no longer contribute to the development of a multinational air and missile defense system beyond 2013, citing affordability concerns. However, the Pentagon has said it hopes to harvest technology from the MEADS program.

MEADS was intended to replace the U.S. Army’s aging Patriot air and missile defense system and has been in development for more than a decade. It is designed to use mobile trucks equipped with interceptor missiles and omnidirectional radars to defeat cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of flight.

Combined, the United States, Germany and Italy have spent about $4 billion on the system. 

But officials from Lockheed Martin, the lead U.S. contractor for MEADS, said in a conference call with reporters Nov. 6 that just as the Defense Department bows out of the project, leaders from Poland are interested in the program. The current MEADS team hopes to add Poland not as a customer “but as an equal member of our team,” said Marty Coyne, director of business development for Lockheed Martin’s Air and Missile Defense. Coyne said Poland hopes to award a contract for its own missile defense program by the end of 2014 and appears willing to spend between $3 billion and $5 billion.

Germany and Italy are expected to continue work on the program. 

The Nov. 6 test marked the final intercept test of the design and development phase. The MEADS system was three for three in two intercept tests. Additional testing, although not flight testing, is expected to continue in 2014, Lockheed Martin officials said. 

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Mike Gruss is a senior staff writer for SpaceNews. He joined the publication in January 2013 to cover military space. Previously, he worked as a reporter and columnist for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. He...