PARIS, France — The German government is imminently expected to take a major step forward to solidify its deal to buy a missile defense system from Lockheed Martin and MBDA Deutschland, according to Lockheed’s executive vice president in charge of the its missiles and fire control business.
The team of Lockheed, MBDA Deutschland and Italy’s Leonardo submitted a complete proposal to the German government to develop the Medium Extended Air Defense System, or MEADS, in late 2016 with the hope the team would be on contract in early 2017. This timeline has slipped by two years.
“We have been through some final reviews with the German customer, and then last week we were in a meeting with the German customer again and I think we are going to get a [request for proposals] at the end of this week or next week,” Frank St. John told Defense News in an interview.
Lockheed and its partners will have six months to respond to the RFP, but St. John said he doesn’t expect the team to take six months to submit a response. “We are ready to go. It’s not going to get held up on our end. We feel like we understand what’s in the RFP to where we could very confidently respond,” he said.
With forward movement looking more promising, St. John said he expects Lockheed and MBDA to be under contract to supply Germany with its missile defense system by the first quarter of calendar year 2019.
The program in Germany is called TLVS and will include integration of Germany’s IRIS-T interceptors and the country’s own battle management system.
In years past, factors like elections, defense reviews and the intricacies of the deal held up the process.
Just putting together the proposal was a complex effort with many moving parts; so many moving parts that while the team expected to deliver it by the summer in 2016, it did not submit a proposal until the end of September that year.
The MEADS program has remained in limbo since the end of the technology development program between Germany, Italy and the U.S. While MEADS was intended to replace the U.S. Army’s Patriot air and missile defense system, the U.S. ultimately decided it would not procure MEADS, but paid to close out the proof-of-concept phase that ended in successful intercept tests in 2012 and allowed the country to have access to the technical data package of the system.
The total investment in the proof-of-concept phase was roughly $4 billion.
Bringing a version of MEADS to life in Germany has encountered speed bumps.
The German government said a year ago that it would not conclude a contract for the procurement of the air defense system before its September elections.
At the time, prime contractor MBDA’s proposal had yet to be finalized amid negotiations for MBDA and Lockheed to establish a joint venture for the implementation of TLVS/MEADS.
St. John told Defense News this week that the joint venture is fully minted.
While Lockheed continues to push for a MEADS success story in Germany, Raytheon has been closely watching the process play out. Germany currently owns and operates Patriot systems, and Raytheon has proposed to the government an upgrade plan to its systems to provide the ability to detect and defeat threats from 360 degrees. The current Patriot system has blind spots.
Raytheon also partnered with Rheinmetall earlier this year to offer an integrated suite of air-defense capabilities that they think could meet the entire portfolio of German air-defense needs to include both short- and medium-range air and missile defense.
While Raytheon seems to have been getting a leg up in the air and missile defense market in recent years, announcing finalized agreements from Romania, Sweden and most famously Poland, a TLVS deal will allow Lockheed to offer European nations a new option and could ramp up competition between the two missile defense giants.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.