Lockheed Martin Corp., the world's largest defense contractor, is leading an advertising blitz after the successful test this week of an embattled missile-defense system.
The Bethesda, Md.-based company ran a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post and released statements, photographs and video of the latest evaluation of the so-called Medium Extended Air Defense System, known in military parlance as MEADS.
During the Nov. 6 test at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., the system intercepted and destroyed two targets approaching from opposite directions, showing "once again that its technologies are the future of air and missile defense," according to ad.
Built by Lockheed, MEADS was designed to replace the Patriot missile defense system made by Raytheon Co., the world's largest missile producer. MEADS incorporates a truck-mounted Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3, missile battery, with a suite of sensors and communications centers. It also features a 360-degree radar, which the Patriot system lacks.
The U.S., Germany and Italy have spent about $3 billion on the program, which critics have called a "missile to nowhere" because the military doesn't plan to continue development to full production. Most of the funding for the effort came from the U.S.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, this year was unable to strip $380 million in funding to complete the program's development from a stop-gap budget bill despite multiple attempts.
"This is a weapons system that the Pentagon won't use and Congress doesn't want to fund," she said in a statement from March. "We shouldn't waste any more money on a 'missile to nowhere' that will never reach the battlefield.
"Every dollar we spend on a wasteful program is a dollar we don't have to ensure our service members have everything they need to protect themselves and accomplish their missions."
Her motivation may have been more parochial than financial. Many of the employees who work at the Raytheon plant in Andover, Mass., live in New Hampshire.
It's unclear whether the latest successful test of MEADS will sway opinion for the program on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers remain deadlocked over a budget plan for fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1.