For MEADS the most important thing is that we are back in the game again (…) Our aim is to deliver the updated price and schedule information, as well as updated industrial package by year-end – Marty Coyne, head of Business Development Department at MEADS International, tells Defence24.pl
JS: Following the finalised financing of development works MEADS has been selected by Germany and in being included again in the Poolish procurement. How is the current situation of the programme looking out?
Marty Coyne, head of business development department at MEADS International: If we compare where we were in 2015 to where we are going to end in 2016, it’s very promising. At one point in 2015 we were not yet chosen by Germany and we were out of any consideration in Poland. Now we’re ending 2016 with having already submitted a sole source proposal to the German customer after being selected over Patriot. By all accounts, we are also certainly back in Poland in consideration for Wisla. So 2016 ended up being a very positive year for the MEADS team.
JS: Germany is the first country that opted for MEADS. It is, however, quite likely that you will face a delay there with regard to signing the contract.
MC: We received the initial RFP from the German MOD in February and the follow-up one a couple of months later. We submitted our proposal a couple of weeks ago officially. So we are now in the next stage of the process where the German MOD is studying our proposal. And when that process is complete, they will then begin negotiations with us.
Obviously we can’t comment on any details of the proposal before or during negotiations, but we’re extremely positive about our chances, obviously. Germany went through a very detailed analysis to choose MEADS as the foundation for their TLVS program. It was for many reasons, not just that we met the military capabilities, but also, for example because of costs. We were a far more affordable option than Patriot, both in initial procurement and in long-term sustainment. So it’s now up to us to do a good job in the negotiations and get to a win-win position with the German customer and get on contract.
JS: The contract was, however, planned to be signed by the end of this year. Is it still possible?
MC: Our ambitious goal was to try get on contract by 2016. We haven't completely abandoned that, although in all likelihood the signing of the contract will slip into 2017. We still fall within the timeline everybody has described. So we’re in sync with our German customer and we’re looking forward to beginning negotiations.
JS: I remember from ILA from Berlin the discussion between MEADS team and Raytheon about the milestones which should be acquired before the contract will be signed. How is their realization proceeding?
MC: Indeed, there are certain milestones the German MOD wants satisfied leading up to contract signature, and then there are others that are needed to be met to continue on a successful path through contract execution. And we currently see no showstoppers whatsoever on any of those milestones. It is still going to be a complex and challenging effort – we are aware of that. We have a customer that is very motivated to replace their old Patriot systems with something modern like MEADS-based TLVS units. We are confident that once we get to a win-win situation through negotiations of the contract, we’re going to be on a clear path to production.
JS: How is the situation looking out in Poland then? MEADS is again taken into consideration in Poland. However, one can have an impression it is being treated as a backup option for the Patriot system. During the MSPO defence fair the Patriot LoR was given much more attention and importance than signing the agreement with PGKZ.
MC: That is true, we are aware of that. And some people have used the words MEADS is a stalking horse. The bottom line is that we are now in the race. And we’re in it to win it. And when the MOD gets what they have asked for - what would it cost and what would the schedule be to get this advanced MEADS capability? When they receive our answer, I predict that any discussion or any notion that MEADS is simply a second option will disappear. We are going to provide them an extremely attractive alternative to Patriot. We will be able to provide them the capability they need sooner than Patriot could ever do. And we will also beat them significantly on price. And so that’s the brilliance of what the Polish MOD did – they inserted competition.
Prior to the MoD’s decision this September, there was no competition in Wisla. As you know, back in 2014 the criteria were changed so that only systems currently fielded in a NATO country would be allowed to move on. So that eliminated us, which unfortunatey for the Poles eliminated that much anticipated head-to-head competition between MEADS and Patriot.
That is why there was understandably a lot of discussion and concern expressed when the exuberant costs to modernize and produce Patriot systems for Poland were unveiled last fall. Unfortunately, things like that happen when you don’t have competition. Luckily there is going to be again a battle to see who is best and you can call us whatever you want until then, but in the end we believe we will be called the winner.
JS: So MEADS is given a second chance and will take advantage of it?
MC: Yes! After many excellent discussions and meetings with us this year, many with the Offset Office, the MOD decided to expand its analysis to include MEADS as an official alternative to Patriot. They sent the Pentagon two requests. And we were told they did so at the exact same time. One request was of course for the FMS case, for Patriot, although with significant changes from the previous one. The second request to the Pentagon requested that Lockheed Martin / MEADS International be able to re-engage on an official basis for the purpose of delivering pricing and scheduling information for MEADS.
Therefore what I can say now is that we are in the process of updating our previous offer. Our goal is to deliver updated price and schedule data as well as an updated industrial package by the end of this year - 2016. Knowing what I know right now about how it’s shaping up, the MOD will be very pleased when they receive this update. We will present a path to Poland thanks to which they can have modern 360 degree capable AMD units anchored with an open plug-and-fight architecture long before 2026 - all with Polish industry participating as a partner and accomplishing a significant portion of the work.
JS: What about new technologies and alternative pathways in Patriot NG, such as SkyCeptor missile and GaN radar technologies?
MC: There has been a lot of talk recently from out competitor, to be specific, about the SkyCeptor. And I just want to make it clear here that the threats that Poland is facing in this region of the world are extremely complex and capable. And you want to have the most advanced and capable missile to defeat it. You cannot leave anything for doubt. Our competitor has suggested the SkyCeptor as a potential replacement for the PAC-3 MSE as a way to potentially lower the cost of Patriot. From our perspective this does not make any sense from a cost nor operational standpoint. There is simply no comparison in performance between the SkyCeptor and the PAC-3 MSE.
JS: And what about GaN technology? Raytheon is underlining that GaN used in Patriot NG is much better than GaAs used in MEADS. What you can say about that?
MC: GaN is not some secret, a technology that is locked behind vaults that only Raytheon can have access to. It’s widely available, but not at the point yet, quite frankly, where many countries are saying „it’s worth the extra costs”. But, when they do, we are well-postured as Lockheed Martin, as well as our partners to provide GaN technology as needed. Lockheed is already, after all, offering its customers GaN-based radar technologies.
JS: Do you feel you as MEADS have the power to make all the systems components in time for Poland and for Germany? With regard to your offer, concerns are being raised whether it is realistically possible to commence production from 0 to 100% in such a short period of time and deliver the final product sooner than Patriot, which already in the production phase?
MC: First of all, comparing MEADS to Patriot is literally comparing apples to oranges. And that is the case because the current Patriot system that will be delivered as a „gap-filler” in either two or three years after contract - the day it arrives, it does not satisfy the most basic of Polish requirements. We need to remember that today's threat environment is a 360 degree threat. So, to invest heavily in a system that from day 1 will only be able to see in one direction while also not possessing an open architecture certainly justifies the debate that is ongoing in Poland.
Secondly, there is no modernization path for Patriot. So not only would the Poles be buying units that don’t meet their basic requirements, they will be stuck with them. Because, as the US GAO report clearly stated, Patriot modernization is finished in the US Army. After this latest software upgrade, called PDB-8, the US Army is switching to a network-centric, component-based air and missile defense system. Patriot is a closed architecture system and not component-based. We understand why investing in old Patriot units at all is such a contentious issue in Poland and why so many folks think it doesn’t make sense.
And regarding your question about capacity - That's one of the advantages of the MEADS team - that you’re getting access to the most capable defense industry in the world. As the U.S.’s largest defense contractor, Lockheed obviously has immense capacity. So that would not be a challenge for us. We look forward to creating a production line for the MEADS components. We will size those production lines anticipating multiple countries’ interest.
JS: According to Poland’s declarations, it wants to acquire Patriots but with the new command system. Why do you think MEADS is better than using a solution used already by US Army? Because some of the experts argue US must do something with Patriot systems or its components - use them in IBCS and the entire new network-based defense and command system.
MC: There are two paths that the Polish MoD is now looking at. The first one is Patriot-based and strictly US Army focused, following the US FMS process. The other path is a hybrid path, which is DCS and FMS, which is the MEADS path. I will stress that again: I think when the MoD sees the advantages from the price and schedule perspective of the MEADS path, which still has an enormous US component obviously, with Lockheed Martin, it will be very attractive to them.
As far as network-based or network-centric is concerned, the key is to invest in an open architecture, plug-and-fight system, which the MEADS Battle Manager and its components provide. IBCS is a battle management system only and when development is completed, it will replace the Patriot battle manager in the US Army. Therefore Poland loses nothing if they invest in MEADS units, with the MEADS open architecture plug-and-fight battle manager because the MEADS battle manager is functionally the same and completely interoperable with IBCS.
And on the other side, the European side, the MEADS battle manager is what Germany will field as a framework nation for AMD. Plus, based on the feedback we’re getting and requests for information from countries like the Czech Republic, Romania, and others, there is a chance that the MEADS plug and fight open architecture, anchored by the MEADS battle manager, will be common throughout NATO/Europe. So there is no risk here for Poland. If the MOD invests in the MEADS battle manager, they will get the open architecture which is common with Germany and the rest of NATO, and when IBCS comes on board, it’s interoperable.
We're laying the groundwork now throughout Europe to make a seamless transition to other countries. We’re hopeful Poland will join the MEADS partnership, because that partnership offer is still on the table. So we want to provide Poland a very low risk alternative to what we see as a very high-risk path with Patriot. And we want to do it at a better price and better schedule than our competitor could ever deliver.
JS: With the contract in Germany in hand you will have big leverage to make anything.
MC: Yes sure, because we will have a hot production line and it will be a real option for countries. That’s why I said all the people are watching us now to see when we get on contract, and rightly so. But myself and my team, we are not waiting around. While our joint proposal team was hard at work on the German proposal and now on updating our Poland offer, my team and I are out informing nations throughout Europe about this incredible capability that is around the corner and they should now be applying for.
And it’s exciting - I was here in Europe back in the 1980s as a young air defense officer. And at that point in time there was an impressive NATO-wide air defense umbrella in place tied together by a well-coordinated NATO operations plan and C2 network. Today, there is of course nowhere near the same number of units we had back then, plus the threat has evolved dramatically. Good news is that there is excellent work being done in the NATO BMD program ensuring operational plans are current and that a new C2 network is in place so nations can come in with modern, 360 degree plug and fight capable systems and components to fill out the rest of it. So a NATO AMD umbrella is a real possibility and we’re glad to play a role in it. (Juliusz Sabak, Defence24 – 11/4/2016)