Distaste for the Medium Extended Air Defense System has gotten so bad that a Congressman recently compared the program to the scene in "Fatal Attraction" when Glen Close pops out of the tub after Michael Douglas thought he’d drowned her.
"You think [MEADS] is dead and it keeps popping out of the bathtub again," said Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J.
MEADS was supposed to replace the Patriot missile defense system until the U.S. Army decided it was too expensive and chose not to field it. U.S. officials agreed four years ago to join Italy and Germany -- the other allies partnered on the program -- to fund development until 2013.
MEADS has few friends in the halls of Congress, yet the program has just enough support to yield about $2.5 billion in funding from U.S. tax payers even though the Army doesn’t plan to operate it. Despite budget cuts, Congress approved $380 million for MEADS development this year.
The promise has been that for these past four years the U.S., Italy and Germany would be able to harvest technologies from the program and upgrade current missile defense systems or use the technology to advance future systems.
However, few other concrete plans have been outlined to take advantage of the multi-billion dollar investment made by the three countries to use the advancements made by MEADS after its development program ends this year with a tactical ballistic missile intercept test scheduled for November.
The U.S. Army sent a team organized to evaluate what technologies could be harvested from MEADS to the MEADS offices for two days, said Marty Coyne, MEADS business development manager at Lockheed Martin. The team was scheduled to issue an interim report by the end of June followed by a full report next year.
Questions still remain over how much of the program could be integrated into legacy systems. Coyne and other MEADS officials said Wednesday at the Paris Air Show that many parts of MEADS are too advanced to integrated into older systems.
He did suggest that components of MEADS could fit into the Integrated Air and Missile Defense network the U.S. Army wants to establish. The launcher and the 360-degree radars could serve as prominent nodes within the framework of the system, Coyne said.
Gregory Kee, general manager of NATO MEADS Management Agency, said MEADS could serve as a "kernel" in which other nations could connect other legacy systems. He also suggested that MEADS could offer technologies that could be incorporated into the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System being built by Northrop Gumman for the U.S. Army.
U.S. Army leaders have said they must improve their missile defense capabilities as they pivot to the Pacific. Army acquisitions executive Heidi Shyu listed missile defense as one of her top priorities in terms of future development.
In order to meet potential mission sets that would require a lightweight, mobile missile defense system, Coyne said MEADS could fit the bill. He said a trimmed down version of the system could be developed for a Quick Reaction Capability. However, the Army has not yet asked the MEADS program officers to pursue that.