A Medium Extended Air Defense System missile launches to intercept a target in November. Lockheed Martin is pursuing missile defense partnerships in the Middle East and Europe after the US announced it was backing out of the MEADS program. (US Army)
WASHINGTON — Like other US defense companies looking for international opportunities amid Pentagon spending cuts, Lockheed Martin executives say they’re aggressively pursuing missile defense business in the Middle East and Europe, and hope to make a controversial program the centerpiece of this effort.
The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), a partnership between the United States, Italy and Germany, is gearing up for its final test in November, after which the US Army — after spending $2 billion on the program — will back out, leaving its two European partners to decide what to do next.
Germany and Italy have long vowed to continue work on the 360-degree missile-detection radar system. However, there is little chance they can pool the money to make up for the US funding that will go away.
Still, Mike Trotsky, vice president of Air & Missile Defense at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, which has helped develop the program, told reporters on Tuesday that the company is looking at a Polish missile defense program as a possible landing pad for MEADS.
“The Poles have the most mature acquisition that’s going on right now,” he said. “But we see a market for anybody who has aging short to medium-range air missile defense systems.”
Trotsky also said that the German and Italian governments might also be able to join with the Polish government to keep MEADS going after the Americans pull the plug, incorporating it into a larger Europe-wide missile defense system.
There are other opportunities for the system elsewhere in the Middle East and Asia, he said, where governments “have expressed informal interest, but nothing as formal as the Polish program, which actually has a budget.”
MEADS would have to beat out other European and Israeli systems to win the Polish deal.
While the US Army is backing out of continued funding for the program, Congress has mandated that the government consider harvesting what it can from the $2 billion investment already made in developing the system.
“The US also has a 30-year plan for air and missile defense that runs into the tens of billions of dollars,” Trotsky pointed out. Since Lockheed has developed two modern sensors, “I suspect what you’ll see is that those items get merged” into the long-term missile defense strategy, he said.
A day before Trotsky’s comments, Lockheed announced that a German launcher had arrived in the United States for integration ahead to the November test at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
MEADS had a successful intercept test there last November using the Italian configuration launcher, and MEADS authorities are planning to use the two European launchers in this year’s two-target flight test.