Interview printed in the April issue of Europäische Sicherheit und Technik, a leading German trade magazine.
Interview with Gregory Kee, General Manager NAMEADSMA (NATO Medium Extended Air Defence Design and Development, Production and Logistics Management Agency), Huntsville Alabama
Q. In letters to U.S. defense officials, defense leaders of Germany and Italy have stressed the importance of the program and stated the importance of completing the MEADS program as the foundation for their planned national air and missile defense capabilities. For Germany, does MEADS offer any competitive advantages over competing systems? What are the difference between MEADS and current AMD systems?
MEADS definitely offers advantages over other competing systems. Based on my knowledge of other competitor offerings, MEADS is the only system that fully addresses Germany’s stated requirements. I firmly believe that MEADS will yield the most future business for the German defense industry since other potential AMD competitors will do little to extend the technical leadership of German industry or provide for future export production.
Also, it should be noted that in 2010 a Bundeswehr study of alternatives concluded that MEADS remained the superior choice for Germany’s AMD requirements, and members of the German Air Force stated that MEADS would become Germany’s contribution to the Phased Adaptive Approach to European Missile Defense. Upgrading the existing Patriot system was determined to be more costly and less capable than MEADS.
Since the study results were published 3+ years ago, MEADS development continued to mature through comprehensive end item testing and system integration testing, and culminated with 3 highly successful, historic flight tests at White Sands Missile Range. All the tests demonstrated “over-the-shoulder” missile launches, which confirmed the system’s ability to provide 360-degree protection. In my opinion, these achievements should further strengthen the results of the Bundeswehr study.
There are a number of differences between MEADS and other existing AMD systems. Among the most important is the ability for MEADS to provide 360-degree radar coverage against the entire threat spectrum, including cruise missiles, tactical ballistic missiles, and air-breathing threats. What this means is that warfighters, civilians in built up areas, and critical assets defined by civilian and military leaders can be protected from all known threats attacking from any direction. This gives military commanders the flexibility to better plan and conduct operations, and civilians the confidence that they will be safe from air and missiles threats.
The MEADS end items are highly transportable, requiring far fewer aircraft to move them within or to a theater of operation. This frees airlift assets to fulfill other critical missions. MEADS is also lighter, smaller, and more agile than exiting systems, and is capable of providing 360-degree defense for forces on the move, which is exceedingly important to military commanders — no other known AMD system can do this.
The MEADS system is netted and distributed. Every MEADS battle manager, radar, and launcher is a wireless node on the network. By virtue of multiple communications paths, the network can be expanded or contracted as the situation dictates and precludes single point failure if one node becomes inoperable. It also has a Plug-and-Fight capability that allows MEADS launchers and radars to seamlessly enter and leave the network without shutting it down and interrupting ongoing operations. MEADS uses open, non-proprietary standardized interfaces to extend plug-and-fight to non-MEADS elements. This flexibility is unprecedented for ground-based AMD systems.
The MEADS radars, battle manager, and launchers were designed for high reliability. This means that the system will be able to maintain sustained operations much longer than legacy systems resulting in overall lower operation and support costs.
Finally, and of significance, a single MEADS battery can defend up to 8 times the area of a Patriot battery. This is possible because of the MEADS advanced 360-degree sensors, near-vertical launch capability, and the longer-range PAC-3 MSE missile. The MEADS radars – using active phased arrays and digital beam forming – make full use of the PAC-3 MSE missile’s extended range, which is not the case with the legacy system.
Q 1. MEADS International representatives have stressed that MEADS does more and will cost less over the long term. Why is MEADS more affordable than other systems?
The short answer is that it was required to be more affordable. MEADS was designed, from the ground up, to ensure operation and support costs would be 1/2 of the Patriot system that it was intended to replace. It uses 1/2 the manpower and requires ~80 percent less maintenance than Patriot. The MEADS operations and maintenance design and approach was validated and approved by the nations at the MEADS Critical Design Review. These achievements are possible because MEADS incorporates a 21st century system design that benefits from modern high-reliability electronics, automated fault detection, leading edge prognostics, two-level maintenance, and a reduction in the number of system elements.
Q 2. The Demonstration of Capabilities phase was structured so that Germany, Italy, and the United States could mature and demonstrate MEADS capabilities and then decide how to leverage the system and technologies to best serve their national interests. What are the results of the current Demonstration of Capabilities phase?
MEADS has had a remarkable set of successes during this phase. In November 2011, we integrated a Multi-Function Fire Control Radar (MFCR) and light-weight Launcher at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) and launched a PAC-3 MSE missile “over-the-shoulder” to demonstrate that the system can provide 360-degree protection. This was the first known instance where an AMD missile fired in one direction, diverted its trajectory, and flew in the opposite direction of its launch. This was followed by an intercept flight test at WSMR in November 2012 when a MFCR, Battle Manager, and a light-weight Launcher were integrated together to launch a PAC-3 MSE missile over-the shoulder, which successfully destroyed an incoming cruise missile target. This was the first known over-the-shoulder missile intercept of an aerial target.
Last year was marked by many similar accomplishments. In April 2013, the MEADS Surveillance Radar acquired and tracked a small test aircraft and relayed its location to the MEADS Battle Manager, which generated cue search commands. This was an important handover demonstration in preparation for flight testing. In June, MEADS demonstrated network interoperability with NATO systems during Joint Project Optic Windmill (JPOW), where MEADS proved its capability to transmit, receive, and process Link 16 messages and to conduct threat engagements. The system was successfully operated by German military personnel throughout the exercise. Last summer, tests of the MFCR and Surveillance Radar at WSMR confirmed their expected performance and capabilities. The year culminated with a historic flight test in November during which MEADS simultaneously identified, tracked, and intercepted a tactical ballistic missile target and an air-breathing threat target separated by more than 125 degrees in azimuth. The air-breathing threat was engaged and destroyed by a PAC-3 MSE missile fired over-the-shoulder from its launcher. The TBM was engaged and destroyed by a separate PAC-3 MSE missile. No other known ground-mobile AMD system has demonstrated a similar dual-intercept capability. All mission objectives of the three historic flight tests at WSMR were successfully accomplished.
As the General Manager of the NATO agency responsible for managing the MEADS program, I could not be more pleased with the progress and results seen to date. Much credit goes to the men and women from all three nations, both government and industry, who have worked hard to assure these results.
Q 3. Lobbying groups have criticized the MEADS program for delays and overruns. Is it true?
These criticisms are wrong. They imply that development began long before 2004 and that MEADS has created over $2B in cost overruns. This is absolutely not the case.
Here are the facts. The MEADS Design and Development (D&D) contract began in 2004. The MEADS program will complete D&D this year and will be within the $4.0B authorized by the contract — there will be no cost overrun as professed by critics. MEADS has delivered on its commitments. As noted earlier, it has demonstrated its capabilities in three historic flight tests (two of which were intercepts), all the major end items have been assembled and are undergoing extensive system integration testing, and detailed testing through simulation is ongoing. Every milestone over the past five years has been met on time and within budget. Finally, the program’s Cost Performance Index (CPI) and Schedule Performance Index (SPI) are excellent.
Q 4. The MEADS program operates on the basis of cooperative development between MBDA Germany, MBDA Italy and Lockheed Martin using a highly successful industrial model. Looking back, how do you judge results of cooperation and especially the contribution of the German industry?
By any measure, the cooperation between the government and industry partners has been exemplary. Trust and communication between the partners have formed the bedrock for the success and duration of the program. One of the great strengths of the program is the ability to leverage the diversity of talent, expertise, imagination, and technology from three different cultures.
Many doubted that this transatlantic cooperative development could succeed, citing that it was too complex, contentious, and cumbersome. Those skeptics have been proven wrong. For sure there have been plenty of challenges, but they have always been solved through the dedication, professionalism, and persistence of the three partners.
The contribution of Germany has been enormous. The long term commitment of the German government, including the detailed involvement of the German Air Force, has been vital to the sustainment of the program. Germany has contributed 25% of the MEADS development costs, using the Smart Defence Model of shared funding to ensure development of a needed defense capability. Cost sharing with the U.S. and Italy made it more affordable for the three nations and was a huge factor in the decision to start the program.
German industry has also played a vital role in the program. You are, of course, familiar with the light-weight Launcher, which was predominately developed, assembled, and tested by MBDA Deutschland. The Launcher proved its value when it successfully launched PAC-3 MSE missiles in the three flight tests. MBDA has also provided critical expertise and leadership in the development of all the other major end items of the system.
One of the most significant technology contributions by German industry is the highly advanced transmit/receive radar modules used in the MEADS MFCR. They are being produced by Airbus with MBDA oversight. These state-of-the-art Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) modules are the only ones in Europe that are certified in accordance with the International Electro-technical Commission (IEC) standard, and are produced on an industrial scale. MEADS is the largest customer for these modules.
I can’t overlook the significant cooperation between the German and Italian Air Forces. Both have been intimately involved as future users for the system, ensuring a capable weapon system that is interoperable with each other’s force and within NATO.
Q 5. The selection decision with regard to a future German Tactical Air Defence System (TLVS) is expected in the first half-year 2014. Could this decision have an impact for other European nations such as Poland and Italy with regard to their future AMD programs?
Yes, the results of the German TLVS decision could have wide ranging implications for other European nations considering future AMD capabilities. Italy’s ability to field MEADS is linked directly to Germany since both currently share the financial costs of the program and Italy would benefit from continued cost sharing.
Poland is closely watching Germany’s decision. Poland has been offered an opportunity to have their industry (PHO) become a partner with the existing MEADS industrial team. This would provide Polish noble industrial workshare in Poland to build the Shield of Poland leveraging advanced MEADS capabilities. In my opinion, this would be the ideal solution for Poland and MEADS. Also, other European nations could benefit from a German, Italian, Polish alliance building on MEADS capabilities, in that they could have access to the best AMD capability available and could be assured of regional interoperability.
Q 6. Could MEADS be leveraged for the Polish Shield missile defense program?
The Polish Shield missile defense program could definitely benefit from MEADS. Poland has made a timely $5 billion budget commitment for a new air and missile defense system. As a next-generation system, the NATO-developed MEADS system is closely matched to Poland’s requirement to field an advanced AMD system in the next decade.
In August 2013, I participated in a two-day technical dialog with Poland’s Ministry of National Defense to explain the advantages of the MEADS system. Then, in November, a delegation from Poland witnessed the successful dual-intercept test at White Sands Missile Range. I’m pleased to tell you that MEADS was recently invited to continue discussions with the Polish MoD as one of five remaining competitors.
A strategic alliance between Germany, Poland and Italy would be tremendous, not only industrially, but through the development of enhanced capabilities in the air and missile defense spectrum. Just think of the possibilities for Europe and European air and missile defense if you leveraged the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, digital systems, 360-degree defense, and network capability that have been developed for MEADS. These capabilities, enhanced through the participation of Poland, would unquestionably strengthen NATO’s ballistic missile defense capability. Nations could be making significant financial and military contributions not only to defense of their homeland but also to NATO European air and missile defense. (Europäische Sicherheit & Technik – April 2014)