What Others are Saying

Patriot In, MEADS Out For Poland’s Missile Defense System Competition

Jen Judson
Posted on InsideDefense.com: July 9, 2014

Poland earlier this month selected offerings from Raytheon and the Eurosam consortium of Thales and MBDA to remain in its competition for a new air and missile defense system, ousting Lockheed Martin’s Medium Extended Air Defense System as well as Israel’s David’s Sling from further consideration.

“We are disappointed, but we remain committed to not only our team, MEADS International . . . but we remain committed to our offer,” Marty Coyne, Lockheed air and missile defense business development director, told Inside the Pentagon on July 9. “So should the criteria change again and allow us to compete, we really look forward to that opportunity.”

Lockheed spearheads a tri-national effort between the United States, Germany and Italy to develop MEADS — a new air and missile defense asset. The U.S. decided not procure the system but agreed to finish a two-year proof-of-concept phase with the other countries that culminated in a successful test against simultaneous threats in November.

Because of rising tensions between neighboring Ukraine and Russia, Poland decided to accelerate its competition to acquire a new air and missile defense system earlier this year. Additionally, according to an industry official who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the international competition, the country surprised the offerors earlier this month when it changed the criteria guiding its selection process.

While Poland had defined its priorities for a new system as something modern, highly-mobile and would include opportunities for Polish industry partnership in development, the country changed the criteria asking for a system that is currently operational and already fielded in the inventory of a NATO country. By virtue of the newly defined criteria, the official said, MEADS could no longer participate in the competition since it is not yet fielded by a NATO country.

The new criteria was driven by the Ukraine crisis, according to the official. “Poland panicked,” the official said, “and feel they have to go with something that’s fielded and feel it will get it something quicker.”

Polish industry has also been let down, the official asserted, because it appears the country will be buying fielded systems that already have well-established production plants and suppliers, leaving fewer partnership opportunities for Polish companies. Precedent exists for the possibility of Poland to change its mind, the industry official added.

William Blake, Raytheon’s director of integrated air and missile defense business development, said he did not believe Poland’s criteria changed during the technical dialogues it has been holding. “It’s about stepping back and looking at what Poland’s needs are from the inception of this program,” he said. “Poland’s needs are quite clear. They had some operational urgency. All customers like to avoid high-risk programs and one of the ways of doing that is building on what is already proven and what is available.”

Blake said Poland’s relationship with NATO was key to the decision. “Clearly as a member of NATO, they have a keen interest in being very interoperable and having something that is going to serve them well for many decades by working together with their NATO allies in things like the Extended Air Defense Task Force and NATO missions and training programs,” he said. “Having a common baseline to do that from is very important.”

Something else that could change Poland’s path is Germany’s impending decision on whether it will continue developing the MEADS system with Italy and ultimately procure it, the industry official noted. That decision is expected by the end of August, but won’t likely be made public until September or October of this year as the German government completes a 90-day review of its top nine defense programs.

Poland may reconsider its decision to drop MEADS from the competition should Germany decide to continue to develop MEADS, the industry official said.

Both Raytheon and the French Eurosam consortium pitched next-generation, co-development opportunities for the systems offered to Poland. Raytheon would modernize the Patriot system with a new 360-degree solid-state staring radar, which preserves the proven back-end of the radar that includes over 12 million lines of software, and a new common command and control system. The company would also co-develop a new, low-cost interceptor with Poland. The French SAMP-T system would be modernized in a co-development effort with Poland as well.

Raytheon’s Patriot recently came in third behind France’s offering in a Turkish competition to acquire a new missile defense system. Turkey chose a Chinese offering.

The new plan appears to be that Poland would buy currently available systems and then spiral in upgrades. Poland’s goal is to reach initial capability by 2018 and full capability by 2022.

The approach would be phased if Raytheon is chosen, according to Blake. “The first step would be Poland acquiring operational capability as quickly as possible,” he said. Patriot is in production today with nine new-build fire units and 29 fire unit upgrades moving down the line, so the system is “something that they can have very quickly,” Blake added.

While Raytheon would provide initial Patriot systems, it would, in parallel, establish a co-development program with Polish industry to take the next steps in inserting mature technology such as the 360-degree array, Blake said. The company could have the 360-degree capability, for example, in full-rate production for Poland in “a matter of two to three years,” he noted.

Concerns have been raised that Raytheon’s offer to Poland to co-develop the next-generation Patriot system is bi-passing U.S. government approval requirements. Blake said the company is already co-developing a friend-or-foe identification capability with the country that was approved by the U.S. government. He added that when it came to receiving approvals for co-development efforts with Poland in the future, he did not anticipate “any obstacles or problems.”

Raytheon, meanwhile, is also trying to stay in the air and missile defense game in Germany as the country mulls its options with MEADS. Blake said Germany decided in October 2011 to reduce its Patriot force from 24 tactical fire units down to 12, retaining the most current configuration.

The company offered to Germany in September 2013 two options to continue its Patriot program, according to Blake. The first was to upgrade the systems to “configuration 3 plus” Patriot systems and re-certify their Patriot Advanced Capability-2 missiles, he said. The other option, Blake noted, is to co-develop with Germany an “evolved Patriot” that “leverages expertise that they developed on the MEADS program and apply that expertise to evolved Patriot to meet their needs going forward.” That effort would include adding a 360-degree solid-state array for the radars.

“Keep in mind this would be an upgrade for Germany as opposed to a new build — they already have operational systems and this would be development and production of upgrade kits,” Blake added.

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