By Dave Berganini
President, MEADS International
No matter who you are, you probably don’t drive a 20-year-old car, let alone a 40-year old car. Why not?
After years of driving, a car’s reliability problems increase and repair costs skyrocket. You aren’t comfortable driving it on long trips. And as technology improves, newer cars become safer and more efficient, with increased performance and reliability. It gets easy to replace the Oldsmobile once you can drive something better that also costs less to own.
The same issues surround the aging Patriot air defense system. Conceived in the 1960s and fielded in the 1980s, Patriot faced challenges during Operation Iraqi Freedom (2002‐2003). According to after-action reports, Patriot systems needed ships to deploy overseas and couldn’t fit below on weather-protected decks. Patriot also demanded 17 C-5s plus 21 C-17s just to move five minimum engagement packages to Jordan. In theater, Patriot’s heavy trucks got stuck in the sand, significantly limiting mobility and their ability to defend new locations. And, with enemies to the right and left, the sector-limited Patriot could not provide the full-perimeter coverage our soldiers needed.
These experiences validated the need for MEADS* and provided a sense of urgency for the U.S. and close allies Germany and Italy to sign the MEADS MOU in 2004. Counter to the prevailing opinion that NATO nations do not adequately support defense spending, Germany and Italy further agreed to share MEADS development costs, paying 42% of the total development cost. As a result, the U.S. stands to gain a next-generation Patriot system replacement for 58 cents on the dollar.
So why is the U.S. still throwing money at Patriot eight years later? According to the 26 April 2012 Medium Extended Air Defense System Report To Congress, planned modifications to Patriot will cost $1,991M in the next five years for software updates and digital processing, adding to billions already spent to improve Patriot’s operator controls and help its radars see better.
None of these upgrades address Patriot’s fundamental problems – sector limitations, ghastly operation and support costs, and impossible transportation logistics. And no matter how much upgrade money is applied, Patriot still will not be networked like MEADS, able to leverage PAC-3 MSE missile capabilities like MEADS, or able to form into task-specific battle configurations like MEADS. Nor would an “upgraded” Patriot provide manpower savings like MEADS.
Because MEADS is successfully demonstrating its 360-degree performance in tests, there’s no need for debate on when to replace Patriot. The time is now. That’s why Congress must provide funds to complete the MEADS Design and Development program next year.
32nd AAMDC: Operation Iraqi Freedom 32nd AAMDC, US Army September 2003 — Patriot Missile Defense Operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom