WASHINGTON — The U.S. Defense Department announced Feb. 14 it would no longer contribute to the development of a multinational air and missile defense system beyond 2013, citing affordability concerns.
The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) has been in development since the mid-1990s as an eventual replacement for the U.S. Army’s aging Patriot air and missile defense system. The system is funded 58 percent by the United States, 25 percent by Germany and 17 percent by Italy. The United States has spent $1.5 billion on the program to date, according to a Pentagon fact sheet.
Rather than ending the program immediately and paying contract termination fees, the Defense Department elected to continue development through 2013 at a cost of $804 million, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said Feb. 14. The truncated development program will focus on a “proof-of-concept” effort that will provide meaningful capability for Germany and Italy should they choose to produce the system, the fact sheet said.
“Our proposal would be that we would invest no more U.S. funds in MEADS after [fiscal year 2013],” Hale said during a media briefing. “We will let the program run out under its current plan so we don’t incur any termination liability. But we wouldn’t spend money beyond there, and we would try to harvest some of the technology, and we may use that in other programs, and our partners may go forward with some MEADS. But it is not our plan to do so.”
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 system is designed to use mobile trucks equipped with interceptor missiles and omni-directional radars to defeat cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of flight. The program completed a critical design review in August.
Production of MEADS originally was planned to begin in 2007. The NATO MEADS Management Agency in November proposed restructuring the development program to extend it through 2017, delaying production to at least 2018, the fact sheet said. Completing the full development program would cost the United States as much as $1.16 billion on top of the $804 million it already has budgeted for the program. An additional $800 million would be required by the United States to complete a test and evaluation phase and certify the system for operations, the fact sheet said.
Because of the delays MEADS has encountered, the U.S. Army would have to procure MEADS while it is sustaining and modernizing its Patriot systems over the next two decades.
“Together, these costs are unaffordable in the current [Defense Department] budget environment,” the fact sheet said.
The money that the Pentagon saves by not funding MEADS beyond 2013 would be used to upgrade the Army’s Patriot and Stinger missile systems, Maj. Gen. Phillip McGhee, the Army’s budget director, said during a Feb. 14 media briefing.
Overall, the Pentagon proposes to spend $10.7 billion on air and missile defense in 2012, including $8.626 billion for the Missile Defense Agency. Those figures are up 13 percent and 9 percent, respectively, over current levels.