By Dave Berganini
President, MEADS International
Jeffrey Starr’s commentary in the Oct. 22 issue of Defense News, “Funding Concerns Mean It’s Time to End MEADS,” offers an inaccurate analysis of the Medium Extended Air Defense System’s performance, cost, and international importance.
Funding needed for this breakthrough air and missile defense system is minimal compared to the expensive consequences of failing to complete the last year of system development and our commitment to Germany and Italy.
Today, a MEADS 360-degree multifunction fire control radar, lightweight launcher, and networked battle manager are in final system tests at White Sands Missile Range for an upcoming intercept test. The system has demonstrated its 360-degree defense capability, plug-and-fight network technology, rapidly deployability, and reliable electronics. A MEADS battery provides eight times the defensive coverage provided by any Patriot battery.
Completion of the current contract ensures that these needed capabilities can be easily brought into the U.S. air and missile defense architecture. In fact, harvesting the mature, network-capable MEADS assets is the quickest and most cost effective way for the U.S. Army to achieve its integrated air and missile defense strategy.
If cost is the issue, MEADS is even more affordable. The U.S. has only spent $2.4 billion on MEADS and continues to benefit from Germany and Italy sharing the more than 40 percent of the total development cost. In fact, the MEADS program remains under the funding cap set back in 2004. It can’t be 10 years behind schedule, because development just started eight years ago.
If MEADS is not completed, the alternative is more alarming. The Army has stated that Patriot needs modifications to meet its requirements.
If honoring commitments is the issue, MEADS must go forward. The Department of Defense, Department of State, and Army Chief of Staff have all publically advocated MEADS funding this year, arguing that the MEADS program must complete development; see www.meads-amd.com. With companion systems stationed in Germany and Italy, MEADS provides a needed ability for European self-defense, reducing Europe’s dependence on the U.S.
MEADS will pay for itself several times over, through increased range and 360-degree coverage, deployment flexibility, manpower and operations savings, and greater reliability. It will also allow Germany and Italy to develop the self-defense capacity the U.S. has asked of them.
There’s no sense in paying more for Cold War system that falls short of these needs.