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MEADS Nations Authorize Two Intercept Trials

The three nations jointly funding the development of a divisive and costly antimissile system have authorized two flight intercept trials of the experimental technology, even as one of the countries has already announced it does not intend to purchase any units (see GSN, Aug. 22).

The United States, Italy and Germany are financing development of the Medium Extended Air Defense System, which was initially intended to address threats from tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and enemy fighter planes. The system was scheduled for delivery in 2018, but the U.S. Defense Department this year said it would end its participation in the program.

The Pentagon is contractually obligated to finance the program until fiscal 2013, though congressional deficit hawks are weighing ending participation in the initiative earlier than that and accepting a steep financial penalty.

The modified contract approved by defense officials from the three participating nations allows for two flight intercept trials. The first is anticipated to take place late next year at the White Sands Missile Range and would involve an "air-breathing threat." The second, slated to occur in late 2013 would involve intercepting a short-range ballistic missile target, according to a press release from MEADS International Inc.

The MEADS technology design and development contract, which expires in 2014, also permits a Sensor Characterization Test and a Launcher Missile Characterization Test, while staying within the funding limit set by Germany, Italy and the United States.

"We remain focused on executing the flight tests approved by the National Armaments Directors [of Germany, Italy and the United States] on time and on budget," MEADS International President Dave Berganini said in a released statement. "Our goal is to demonstrate the advanced capabilities of MEADS, including its open, network-centric architecture, non-proprietary software and plug-and-fight capabilities" (MEADS International Inc. release, Nov. 3).

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