Poland’s Rocket Dilemma


By Dave Berganini Rzeczpospolita daily


September 15, 2015

The MEADS system is Patriot Next Generation’s real competitor in the development of Poland’s shield – writes MEADS International president Dave Berganini

In April this year, Raytheon’s Patriot was selected as the basis for Poland’s Wisla medium-range air defense system. In June, Germany announced that MEADS would be the basis for its next-generation Taktisches Luftverteidigungssystem (TLVS) system. Was Raytheon’s vice president John P. Baird offering the truth about MEADS in an August 23rd Rzeczpospolita interview?

USA has not given up on MEADS

John Baird writes that MEADS was abandoned a few years ago by the United States, and despite 10 years and billions of dollars in costs, remains incomplete and no one knows how much more money will be needed to complete it. In reality, approximately 85 percent of the MEADS development scope has been completed. The work that remains is the completion of logistics planning, training materials and software qualification. The program’s technical risk has been mitigated to a minimum.

Germany plans to complete development and to produce and field MEADS-based TLVS units within the contract’s parameters, valued at approx. €4bn. These units, within this cost, will perform the functions that Poland has decided to develop separately in the Wisla and Narew programs.

In February 2011, the US Department of Defense announced that it could not afford to take MEADS into production and pay for Patriot modifications at the same time. However, neither did the US elect to procure Raytheon’s Patriot Next Generation system. The US Army is shifting towards a network-centric approach (similar to Germany) that is focused on networking individual components. It has selected Northrop Grumman’s IBCS battle manager and Lockheed Martin’s PAC-3 MSE missiles.

A US Army Analysis of Alternatives (AoA), which began in early 2015, will determine the radars and launcher to be selected for the US air defense system. The MEADS launcher is considered a very likely choice, while the radar will likely be selected in 2018.

MEADS has been tested

When comparing the number of tests, it is important to note that MEADS has received more government design and development oversight than any air and missile defense system in US history. Implementing design and performance requirements established by three governments, MEADS underwent 47 separate Critical Design Review events while satisfying all 1100 defined exit criteria.

The situation was similar in the case of MEADS flight tests. In addition to US government representatives, four other national delegations, including Poland, witnessed the flight tests of the US-German-Italian MEADS. Over 80 national representatives attended the unprecedented 360-degree dual-intercept test in November 2013.

Every aspect of the MEADS flight test program was executed in response to the needs of and under oversight of program and project offices of the US Army, which, among others, on that basis made an initial production decision for PAC-3 MSE.

Meanwhile, Patriot Next Generation, which Raytheon has offered Poland, has not undergone any flight tests. It has yet to move beyond the prototype phase into integration, qualification and flight testing. Unlike MEADS, all of the financial, technical and schedule risks still lie ahead.

Raytheon’s vice president wrote that if MEADS does not meet certain technological and timing criteria over the next few years, the German government will return to talks regarding the modernization of its current Patriot units. I would like to reiterate that Germany’s decision was made following an extensive military evaluation and independent audit commissioned by the Minister of Defense, as well as 25 years of direct operating experience with the Patriot air defense system.

According to John Baird, the US continues to annually cover the required $1bn per year for the Patriot system’s modifications, not counting the operational and maintenance costs. Other Patriot users are contributing $500m more every year to address operational issues. Yet, in spite of this funding, Patriot retains a proprietary closed architecture and remains a sectored and immobile system, and is increasingly ill-suited for the challenges of evolving warfare. Modernizing the system to a fully digital architecture would take 10-12 years and additional billions, but even then it would not meet operational imperatives for 360-degree defense and strategic and tactical mobility. It was these limitations that were behind Germany’s selection of MEADS.

Is GaN-based radar better?

In the article there are also arguments for GaN radar technology. Updating Patriot’s radar design is essential because it is still based on 40-year-old vacuum-tube technology. The promise of GaN technology includes higher performance and greater reliability, but does nothing to address identified design shortcomings. It does not provide 360-degree protection against all threats. It also does not improve target tracking or acquisition performance.

The MEADS system’s MFCR (multi-function fire control radar) radar remains the most effective air and missile defense radar in the world – the only radar that fully meets the requirements needed to defend against today’s and tomorrow’s threats.

The 360-degree MEADS radar took 10 years to develop under financing from government contracts. Raytheon wants Poland to provide the funds for the development, integration and testing of its radar, because it has no funding for it from the US government. In return, the company offers no ownership benefits of the new system. It is completely unlike the MEADS model in which the investments of German and Italian governments resulted in genuine co-ownership of the technology. Poland, if it wants to, could have exactly the same status. The truth about MEADS and Patriot is therefore different from what Baird wrote, and readers of “Rzeczpospolita” should be able to form their own opinion based on facts.