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The Netherlands: Yes to Patriot, No to MEADS

November 6, 2015 (Photo Credit: BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The Netherlands has decided to modernize its existing Raytheon-made Patriot air and missile defense batteries instead of buying a new system like Lockheed Martin's Medium Extended Air Defense System.

The decision doesn't help build the momentum that Lockheed and MBDA Deutschland — who are jointly developing MEADS for Germany — are hoping to gain for MEADS among NATO countries.

Instead of buying MEADS, an industry source said, the Dutch will modernize their Patriot batteries between 2017 and 2021, extending the system's life to at least 2040.

The Dutch reasoned, according to the source, that modernizing Patriot would be better than waiting for a system that likely won't be completed inside of 10 years.

The Patriot system was reaching the end of its lifespan, according to translated testimony from Netherlands Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert during a Dutch Parliament Defense Committee hearing.

And, according to Hennis-Plasschaert, the Netherlands' decision was also fueled by the fact that Germany, which plans to ultimately field MEADS, will keep Patriot at least until 2025 and the need to have systems that work together is important.

Hennis-Plasschaert also said that upgrading Patriot was a better investment and that replacing it with MEADS would be too costly, especially when considering upkeep of both systems until 2040.

The Dutch recently removed its Patriot batteries from Turkey's border with Syria in order to modernize the systems. The US also removed its batteries.

According to another industry source, missile defense companies are in Poland Friday at a defense conference where the statements from the Dutch defense minister have come up. The source noted that while the Dutch are planning to spend a small amount on a life-extension program for their Patriot batteries for such upgrades as new touch screens, the country hasn't conducted a competition or review of alternatives and is in the preliminary stages of its budget process for next fiscal year.

Lockheed Martin and MBDA Deutschland are expecting to sign a contract with Germany next year to produce MEADS and with that stamp of approval, "we think that MEADS has the opportunity to be the NATO air and missile defense system," Marty Coyne, Lockheed Martin's MEADS director, told reporters at the DSEI exhibition in London in September.

And the market for modernized air and missile defense capability is a gold mine. "We estimate it conservatively at $100 billion over the next 15 plus years," Coyne said.

It wasn't long ago when the future of MEADS was hanging in the balance. MEADS started as a tri-national agreement among the US, Germany and Italy. The US eventually scrapped plans to buy the air and missile defense system meant to replace Patriot, but agreed to spend $800 million to finish a two-year proof-of-concept phase that means all three countries can access the technology developed through the program.

The future of the program depended on Germany choosing the system because Italy, which wants MEADS, couldn't afford to go it alone. So Lockheed and MBDA waited more than a year for Germany to conduct an analysis before making a final decision.

In June, Germany ultimately decided to finish developing and to produce MEADS TLVS, which will fire both longer-range PAC-3 missiles and German IRIS-T short-range missiles, Wolfram Lautner, head of communication at MBDA Deutschland, said.

Lockheed was also hoping to clinch a win in Poland in the "Wisla" competition for a new air and missile defense system, but because Poland decided it needed a system that was already fielded, it dropped MEADS, which is nearing the end of its development.

The Netherlands' decision, according to its defense minister, is in step with other countries' Patriot modernization and procurement programs, including the United States.

Yet, the US is planning to develop a future system — the Integrated Air and Missile Defense System, which will likely not be developed by any one company.

The Army has already picked Northrop Grumman's Integrated Battle Command System for the battle manager and the PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhanced missile for the interceptor; however, the service has yet to decide how, what and when it will procure a launcher, and surveillance and fire control radars.

An analysis of alternatives is expected to be completed by the end of the year, according to Army missile defense officials.

Meanwhile, Raytheon is making headway toward development of Poland's new air and missile defense system, issuing a first round of request for proposals to Polish industry. The request asks Polish companies to submit proposals to partner with Raytheon to "design, develop and build a number of major elements for Poland's Patriot," according to a company statement.


Twitter: @JenJudson

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