Over the last 10-15 years, the number of threats coming from the air has increased. In the 70s and 80s, they were only aircraft. Now they include guided missiles, aircraft, drones, ballistic missiles and rockets. Threats exist in the east and the south. The MEADS system is designed to combat threats from all directions – Martin Coyne says.
At Lockheed Martin, which you represent, is there a department for the MEADS defense system. There is also the MEADS International concern. What are their dependencies?
The multinational MEADS International company was created to jointly develop an air and missile defense system, which is called MEADS, whereby the three NATO countries, U.S., Germany, and Italy agreed to share in the cost of development. The proportions are such that Lockheed Martin has a 50% share in the company, and the rest is Germany and Italy. U.S.’s Lockheed Martin has a leading role in the consortium and we, along with our German and Italian partners have invited Polish industry to join our team.
Does it mean that if Poland were to decide to buy this defense system, the Germans and Italians would still have priority of delivery?
In this partnership, all are equal. If Poland were to decide to enter into this partnership, it would have an equal right to make any decision. It would be an equal partner in the whole consortium, and thus would have access to this innovative technology.
How does the MEADS system differ from the Patriot system it would be replacing in Poland?
MEADS was created in order to respond to the limitations of the Patriot system, which was created over 40 years ago. The Patriot system can only respond to a threat from one direction, MEADS operates in 360 degrees. Another advantage of MEADS is that it is lighter, highly mobile, much easier to transport and is built on the basis of allowing for the addition of elements. That means that other elements can be connected to it, for example radars or launchers. Over the last 10-15 years, the number of threats coming from the air has increased. In the 70s and 80s, they were only aircraft. Now they include guided missiles, aircraft, drones, ballistic missiles and rockets. The newest cruise missiles can attack from the rear. Threats exist in the east and the south. The MEADS system is designed to combat threats from all directions. That is the system’s biggest advantage. Of course, it took to 10 years and $ 4 billion to build and develop the system. Hence, if someone wants to do it faster and cheaper, it is impossible. All other manufacturers are about 10 years behind us.
How does MEADS work?
The system is almost completely automated. Within minutes of landing, the system is operational. It only needs as few as two persons to operate it. One part of it is the surveillance radar, the main radar that monitors the sky non-stop looking for enemy threats over great distances. When a threat is found, a second radar, the fire control radar, precisely targets the threat. Information is then passed to the control van, where the two operators are sitting, which sends the launch command. The launcher fires a hit-to-kill missile, called PAC-3 MSE, which uses kinetic technology to destroy the target and does so as far away as possible as to limit damage back on the ground. Nothing gets away from the two radars working in unison. The main missile, PAC-3 MSE, which is the most advanced missile of this type in the world, receives information from the radar initially, however, during the terminal phase uses its own radar that is installed inside to target and totally destroy the threat. Thanks to this plug-and-fight system and open architecture, countries that decide on MEADS can integrate their own elements, for example, in the case of Poland, that element could be a radar or a second type of missile, which would provide a great opportunity for Polish industry. The system has undergone 3 live fire tests, which were all successful. The main thing left to do is to tailor the system to the needs of the customer, i.e., Poland.
How many MEADS elements must Poland buy to ensure the safety of its entire territory?
That depends on how many and what areas Poland wants to protect. The Polish government is talking about 8-10 systems, and it seems that this number should be sufficient in the case of MEADS.
Can the system defend itself?
The fact that it’s a 360-degree system, controlling the entire sky around itself, means it can defend itself.
What are the possibilities for Polish companies to put make such systems or their components?
One of the most attractive points of our offer is that Poland can become an equal partner in this project. That doesn’t only mean that Poland will tailor and produce Polish MEADS systems, which we expect to be at least 40% of the entire project. By being a partner, it means that Polish companies will take part in developing and producing this most advanced system for global export also. For example, we foresee that working together with MESKO S.A., Poland can build a MEADS medium-range missile for less demanding targets, such as aircraft or helicopters. 70% of that missile could be made in Poland.
What, according to you, is the future of this system?
By the end of the year, we anticipate to be on contract in Germany, which chose to build its new air defense system based on MEADS and thus retire their old Patriot units. We’re also seeing great interest in our system in many other countries, including Poland’s neighbors. Thanks to plug-and-fight it’s easy to create a regional defense network based on MEADS. Yesterday, I visited two countries that are keenly looking at what Poland does.
Talking about the future, I meant in terms of technology. What is the next step?
Good question. Thanks to MEADS open architecture, which is constantly evolving, it will be possible to integrate with the system future technologies that appear, for example radars. However, we’re also looking at laser technology. When it is more advanced, we’ll be able to integrate it with the system.
WHAT IS MEADS
Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) – is a mobile short- and medium-range antiballistic and air defense missile system operating in the lower part of the atmosphere in the terminal phase, developed by the United States in cooperation with Germany and Italy. MEADS is designed to replace the Patriot system in the United States, Hawk in Germany and Nike-Hercules in Italy. The system is meant to combat air-breathing threats, including cruise missiles, aircraft, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) a full 360 degrees, while offering new capabilities to combat tactical ballistic missiles.
Offering its MEADS system, Lockheed Martin is taking part in the proceedings to provide Poland a short and medium range air and missile defense system (Narew and Wisla). (Igor Szczesnowicz, Gazeta Polska Codziennie – 6/27/2016)