“We welcome a direct comparison with Patriot but we also respect the ongoing analysis process and timeline by the new MoD. We stand ready to re-engage when called upon,” Marty Coyne, MEADS Business Development Director tells Defence24.pl in an interview.
Jakub Palowski: Last year, Germany took the decision to build their prospective air defense system on MEADS solutions. When will the first MEADS batteries be delivered to the armed forces of the Federal Republic and when will they achieve operational readiness? According to German plans, when could the German Patriot systems be fully replaced by MEADS?
Marty Coyne: At this moment, we are in the proposal development phase with contract negotiations still ahead of us, so let’s speak in general terms about delivery. With contract signing in 2016, we expect that the first units can be supplied in four to five years, hence in 2020/2021.The full replacement of Patriot will follow shortly after.
JP: What is the scope of development works that need to be conducted in order for MEADS to go into serial production and what is their cost?
MC: Development of the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) is approximately 85 percent complete towards the original 3-nation requirements. What remains is essentially system-level qualification work, logistics planning and preparation of training materials. For Germany, we will complete this work but also create a tailored system for their specific needs and this program is called TLVS. It will be based on the MEADS plug and fight architecture and use all the components we developed including the battle manager, radars, and launcher. It will fire the hit-to-kill PAC-3 MSE missiles; in full 360 degrees I might add.
Additionally for the TLVS program, we will integrate a complimentary missile called IRIS-T-SL to address critical but less stressing targets like aircraft, helicopters, and less sophisticated cruise missiles. We will also integrate the German SAMOC battle manager into the system. The German MoD has budgeted a total of €4 billion to complete this scope of work and to produce the systems.
JP: Does the contract planned in Germany, which according to official statements should be worth around EURO 4bn, also include the operational support during the lifecycle?
MC: No, this contract amount will cover the development as described above, as well as produce and field the systems. The costs to operate and sustain these MEADS-based TLVS units will be addressed in a follow-on contract. The cost of this support is an important factor. In traditional weapon systems, operations and sustainment costs are much greater than development and procurement costs combined. This was taken into consideration in the MEADS requirements and as a result, we developed a system that slashes these costs.
We understand the MEADS O&S cost savings were a significant factor in the German MoD deciding in favor of MEADS vs. a modernized Patriot for the TLVS program. In the official response to the Bundestag’s Defense Committee, the German Ministry of Defense estimates that the 30-year maintenance costs will amount to about EURO 5.6bn. The low maintenance cost was a major factor in the German decision and will be seriously taken into account by other users of air and missile defense systems.
JP: How many systems is Germany planning to acquire and in what configuration?
MC: The German Air Force, purchased over 20 Patriot batteries starting in the 1980s but has since sold many of them. Today, they operate 12. The German defense ministry has stated a desire for 8-10 MEADS-based TLVS batteries to replace the current Patriot systems.
JP: In the United States there is currently an Analysis of Alternatives underway about the future air defense system. How do you assess the chances of the MEADS solutions? When could they be delivered to the US Army?
MC: We are excited about prospects in the United States. The requirements of a new Integrated Air and Missile Defense capability are largely the same requirements MEADS has been developed to meet.
The US defense community is in consensus that it needs a network-based system with 360-degree defensive capability. The United States can use one of the unique features of the MEADS system – it can acquire modern network elements, and not be forced to buy the whole system in order for it to work.
The MEADS launcher and radars (fire control and surveillance) are the only network components that have already demonstrated these capabilities. Thus, there should not be a compelling reason to start a new development and delay achievement of the Army strategy. Lockheed Martin would be the prime contractor in this scenario with assistance by MBDA GE/IT and could deliver both radars and the launchers in the United States within three years after contract.
JP: Does MEADS envision, in a longer perspective, the introduction of gallium nitride technology to its MFCR fire control radars?
MC: GaN technology is certainly being discussed in the news lately. Lockheed Martin, for example, is no stranger to GaN technology. Just a few months ago, we announced availability of our new Digital Array Row Transceiver (DART) radar technology for the TPS-77 Multi Role Radar, and it is fully compatible with the TPS-77, TPS-59, and FPS-117 radars. MEADS’s modern AESA radars are the only sensors designed from the ground up to address current and emerging threats. They set the standard for performance and reliability in air and missile defense in their current configuration.
If customers desire to have GaN technology in the future, we could upgrade the MFCR radar with this technology quite simply due to the modular aspect of this modern radar. We understand that Poland has GaN technology, which we could possibly use for this purpose. However, given the outstanding performance and reliability of today’s MEADS sensors, the decision will likely be made by a country when it makes sense to do so from a cost perspective.
JP: We’ve heard that Scandinavian countries, Baltic States, Romania and Bulgaria are interested in MEADS. It’s clear some of them will not be able to buy whole systems. But the MEADS system offers opportunity to build a wide European network connecting different radars and command systems used by separate countries with the MEADS infrastructure. Can you envision such a scenario? Are you receiving signals of interest from European countries?
MC: With Germany’s selection of MEADS for the TLVS, this has certainly caused increased interest by other NATO nations than even before. Several countries, even those with modest defense budgets see the opportunity to participate in AMD for the first time by adopting the MEADS open plug-and-fight architecture. By investing in the Battle Manager and say, the MEADS Surveillance Radar (SR), they can immediately and affordably contribute to the NATO air picture. Then, in a time of crisis, countries with full MEADS units could contribute individual components like launchers and missiles to round them out to a complete fire unit and allow them to protect themselves. This is the epitome of NATO “smart defense”.
Today, when countries like Turkey ask for AMD help, only a few countries were able to answer that call, thus taking on the entire burden themselves. A NATO-wide MEADS plug-and-fight architecture enables a collective defense by all participating members at the component level. Romania is talking to us about this approach exactly, as well as other nations from the Baltics on down. We think Poland could actually take the lead in the development of such a networked system for Eastern and Central Europe. But again, we do not want to get ahead of ourselves nor the Polish MoD.
PJ: Dutch Prime Minister announced the extension of the Patriot system. Does that mean that Holland will not procure MEADS in upcoming years? And what about the other European Patriot user – Spain?
MC: We have followed defense discussions in the Netherlands with interest – but not with alarm. They have chosen to take necessary, practical steps by forecasting a modest sum of money over the next few years to do basic life-extension repairs to their 30-year-old Patriots, especially after two years of continuous NATO service in Turkey. Holland is not yet in the market for a full system replacement but there is a path to MEADS that we believe is both affordable and timely that will allow them to retain an AMD leadership role in NATO.
Spain also has a few aging Patriot systems and similar economic situation. They defend NATO’s southern border, as does Italy. Both nations understand the importance of MEADS capabilities.
JP: Poland's new government expressed doubts as to Patriot air and missile defense system in regard to acquisition of the medium range air defense system Wisla. Is MEADS still ready to offer its solutions to the Polish armed forces?
MC: The situation in Poland has certainly changed as a result of the recent elections. The new government has been quite public in their criticism of the price, delivery schedule, as well as the quantity and quality of the work shared with Polish industry with respect to the current Patriot offer. These are actual strengths in our previous offer, which remains valid. So yes, we believe there is an opportunity for a re-look of MEADS in Poland. We welcome a direct comparison with Patriot but we also respect the ongoing analysis process and timeline by the new MoD. We stand ready to re-engage when called upon.
JP: According to the MoD head’s statements, there is an emphasizes within the MoD for a quick acquisition of capabilities in respect to air defense, including missile defense. When would MEADS be ready to deliver the first air and missile defense systems, with 360 degree target engagement and ballistic missile interception capabilities?
MC: Exact delivery schedule would be based on the Polish requirements to include the tailoring of the system for their specific needs, like what Germany is doing. The good news is that the main development work was completed over the past 10 years thanks to the combined investment of $4bn by the U.S., Germany and Italy. So we are talking about a few years for MEADS deliveries and not a decade plus as mentioned in the media for the Patriot offer. There are no shortcuts in this business and for anyone to replicate the MEADS capabilities like its open, plug and fight architecture, lightweight 360 degree components, modular design, and low sustainment costs, it would take a lot of time and money. The opportunity exists for Poland to leverage the MEADS investment but again, let me repeat, we respectfully await the Polish MoD decision process.
JP: The MEADS consortium took part in the technical dialogue for the Narew short range air defense system. To what extent do the offered solutions create the possibility to integrate MEADS with the short-range system?
MC: This is the most exciting aspect of what MEADS was designed to do. Because MEADS is based on incorporation of component capabilities – launchers, radars, battle managers, etc. – it is inherently designed to incorporate medium-range and short-range defense capabilities. It also offers savings by sharing radars and battle management systems, or by leveraging radars already fielded. MEADS has been proposed for both Wisla and Narew because it is capable of performing both roles and integrating the two systems into a single one.
JP: Does the MEADS offer include the creation of a single command system that includes short and medium range missile launchers and radars, with the ability of dual use (e.g. short range missile guided by the medium range radar and vice versa)? Could such a system employ various types of short-range missiles and Polish early warning radars?
MC: Yes. The MEADS open architecture is designed so that different sensors can be integrated together to form a common 360-degree air picture for short- and medium-range defenses, while simultaneously facilitating the best pairing of sensors and launchers to optimize an engagement outcome. We see a significant portion of this integration work being done by Polish industry to include the development and integration of a long-range Polish air defense interceptor to complement the PAC-3 MSE hit-to-kill missile. We also see room for the involvement of T-Radwar, in a significant, joint venture to construct radar systems for the Wisla program. The MEADS industrial model is based on leveraging the in-country industrial capabilities for both development and production in a collaborative team structure. We have witnessed firsthand the growth of MBDA-GE for example in such an industrial set-up where they have gone from an AMD parts provider to a system prime in a little over 10 years. We see the same type of potential with PGZ.