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MEADS (Medium Extended Air Defence System), United States of America




Key Data


MEADS medium extended air defence system

The MEADS medium extended air defence system


The medium extended air defence system (MEADS) is scheduled to replace Hawk and Patriot systems worldwide. MEADS will protect manoeuvring forces and fixed installations against attacks from current and next-generation tactical ballistic missiles, low and high-altitude cruise missiles, remotely piloted vehicles, manoeuvring fixed-wing aircraft and rotary wing aircraft. The total system is designed for rapid deployment and tactical mobility.

MEADS project background

"The total system is designed for rapid deployment and tactical mobility."

In 2003, MEADS International submitted a solicited proposal for the design and development (D&D) phase. The US and Italy approved the project for the D&D phase in July 2004. In April 2005, the Germany approved participation in the D&D phase.

In June 2005, MEADS International received the formal contract from the Nato medium extended air defence management agency (NAMEADSMA) for the D&D phase. The contract extends the MEADS programme for nine years.

A risk reduction effort (RRE) programme was awarded in July 2001. A successful system demonstration in May 2004 concluded a three-year risk reduction effort programme. The demonstration included a prototype of the fire control radar, command centre, launcher and emulated PAC-3 missile.

Missile and aircraft engagement demonstration

MEADS successfully demonstrated its ability to acquire, track and destroy live targets using simulated PAC-3 hit-to-kill missiles. MEADS also managed to identify and engage simulated ballistic missile and hostile aircraft targets, as well as live dedicated and opportunity aircraft.

The demonstration verified BMC4I (battle management command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) capability to control and display surveillance radar, multifunction fire control radar (MFCR) and launcher functions. The launcher's roll-on / roll-off capability for the C-130 transport aircraft was also demonstrated successfully.

"MEADS successfully demonstrated its ability to acquire, track and destroy live targets using simulated PAC-3 hit-to-kill missiles."

In February 2009, Germany requested that MEADS International integrate the IRIS-T SL air defence missile into MEADS, to fulfil a German Air Force requirement for a lower tier element. IRIS-T SL, supplied by Diehl BGT, is a surface-launched medium-range version of the air-launched IRIS-T. It has a range of 30km.

In 1999, NAMEADSMA selected MEADS International, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, to develop the new air and missile defence system.

A multinational partnership, MEADS International's participating companies are MBDA (formerly Alenia Marconi Systems) in Italy, EADS in Germany and Lockheed Martin, in the US.

Finances for the design and development programme were provided by the US (58%), Germany (25%) and Italy (17%). Development work is allocated in accordance with national funding.

Developing the medium extended air defence system (MEADS)

The preliminary design review began in August 2007 and was completed in February 2008. The critical design review was completed in September 2010. Initial flight tests at the White Sands Missile Range were successfully completed in November 2011. MEADS is expected to enter service in 2014.

The first two intra-fire unit communications hardware components for MEADS were delivered in October 2010. The rotation tests of the first multifunctional fire control radar (MFCR) for installation in MEADS battle manager were completed in January 2011 in Italy.

Formal acceptance testing of the MEADS second launcher platform group (LPG) was completed in March 2011 in Dello, Italy. The integrated launcher electronics system (ILES) successfully carried out a simulated missile launch in September 2011.

Acceptance testing of the first MEADS battle manager was done in May 2011 in Fusaro, Italy. It was shipped to Orlando in July 2011 to carry out integration testing, which began in October 2011 at the MEADS Verification Facility in Orlando.

A contract modification to fund two flight intercept tests and other tests was approved in November 2011. The first flight test of MEADS was successfully conducted at White Sands Missile Range in November of that year. Acceptance testing of the first MEADS power and communications unit was achieved in June 2012. The certification testing of the MEADS Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system was concluded in October 2012. The first intercept test at White Sands Missile Range was successfully conducted in November 2012.

Mobile surface-to-air missile system details

MEADS is a mobile surface-to-air missile system. The multicanister launcher is mounted on a 5t wheeled vehicle. Advanced radars provide 360° coverage and operate in highly stressing jamming environments.

The system is strategically transportable and tactically mobile. It is required to be transportable by C-130 and A400M aircraft and will be quickly deployed to the theatre of operations and airlifted with multiple missiles loaded on the mobile launcher. Once in the forward zone, it is able to move quickly to keep pace with fast-moving manoeuvre forces.

MEADS has greater firepower and requires less manpower than its predecessors. The components of MEADS are linked by a communications network with netted and distributed architecture, enabling the MEADS units to be organised according to the specific task requirements and configured according to predicted threats.

The multiple paths of communications result in the system being very robust against jamming and also allow the units to be dispersed over a wide area. The units have access to sensors from other systems. Interoperability also allows multiple allied air defences to work together.

'Plug and fight' flexibility feature

"MEADS has greater firepower and requires less manpower than its predecessors."

Flexibility is a key characteristic of MEADS. The 'plug and fight' flexibility of its open architecture provides for 21st century air defence system-of-system integration capabilities, which allow operational mission-tailoring for homeland defence or defence of manoeuvre forces. MEADS will also provide greater firepower with less manpower than current systems, producing dramatic operation and support cost savings.

The system is able to command a fleet of distributed missile launchers while simultaneously detecting and tracking hostile forces and targets. The missile launchers can be located well away from the ground radar and the battle management units. It is also possible to hand over command and control of the launchers and missiles to a neighbouring battle management unit while management systems are moved.

MEADS is intended for use in standalone and tailorable operational configurations through compatibility with other air defence systems. A minimum engagement capability that relies on a single multifunction fire control radar (MFCR), tactical operations centre and launcher (12 PAC-3 MSE missiles) can be strategically deployed using a single C-5, or tactically deployed in just five C-130 sorties.

Lockheed's Patriot advanced capability (PAC-3) missile

The PAC-3 (Patriot advanced capability) hit-to-kill missile has been developed by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control for the Patriot air defence system which MEADS is intending to replace. First low-rate production missiles were delivered to the US Army in October 2001.

The PAC-3 missile was the baseline interceptor for the MEADS programme when the design and development phases began.

However, in December 2007, the PAC-3 missile segment enhancement (MSE), being developed by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control, was chosen as the baseline interceptor for the MEADS programme.

"The PAC-3 missile was the baseline interceptor for the MEADS programme when the design and development phases began."

While it builds on the PAC-3, which has been in production for more than ten years, the PAC-3 MSE is a developmental missile that provides greater range and velocity against the threat.

The MSE gives the missile a more powerful rocket motor for added thrust and larger fins for increased agility.

The guidance system is extremely difficult to jam, even by advanced cooperative mode jamming. The missile combines standard aerodynamic control surfaces and multiple single-shot thrusters to achieve the very agile high-g manoeuvres that are required for precise hit-to-kill control.

The missile has a solid propellant rocket motor, made by Atlantic Research Corp. Gainesville, Virginia, and uses an inertial guidance unit made by Honeywell in Clearwater, Florida, to arrive at the target area. In the terminal phase of flight, the missile acquires and tracks the target with its forward-looking, gimbaled, active, RF Ka-band millimetre wave seeker, made by Boeing in Huntsville, Alabama.

Target destruction is achieved through the kinetic energy released by hitting targets head-on. The missile is armed with a lethality-enhancing warhead for use against air-breathing targets.

In January 2008, NAMEADSMA awarded a $66m contract to MEADS International to incorporate the PAC-3 missile segment enhancement (MSE) as the baseline interceptor for the tri-national programme. The increased range MSE gives the missile a more powerful rocket motor for added thrust and larger fins for increased agility. The MSE began flight testing in May 2008. The MSE missile successfully intercepted a threat representative tactical ballistic missile target in February 2010.

Control of the MEADS ballistic missile defence system

MEADS ballistic missile defence system BMC4I is a netted, distributed, automated communications network which uses an open systems architecture. All equipment is ruggedised commercial-off-the-shelf / military-off-the-shelf.

The tactical operations centre (TOC) is housed in a single shelter containing three workstations and two operators. One standard TOC is provided to the nations, but each nation mounts it on a chassis or trailer of its selection. Northrop Grumman Italia was selected to provide the MEADS navigation and localisation system in February 2008.

Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors is responsible for the new truck-mounted surveillance radar for MEADS and, with Selex Sistemi Integrati (formerly Alenia Marconi Systems) and MBDA Italia, will provide the new X-band multifunction fire control radar. Cassidian (formerly EADS Defence Electronics) is responsible for the radar's transmit / receive modules.

Both systems will use a common design for the digital receiver and signal / data processor, allowing for validation using a single prototype. Radars will provide full 360° capability.


The Global Missiles and Missile Defence Systems Market 2011-2021

This project forms part of our recent analysis and forecasts of the global missiles and missile defence systems market available from our business information platform Strategic Defence Intelligence. For more information click here or contact us: EMEA: +44 20 7936 6783; Americas: +1 415 439 4914; Asia Pacific: +61 2 9947 9709 or via email.


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MEADS protects manoeuvre forces and critical installations against tactical ballistic missiles.
The MEADS tactical operations centre (TOC).
Advanced radars provide 360 degree coverage for surveillance and fire control.
MEADS successfully identified ballistic missile and hostile aircraft from a multiple-target set.
The MEADS battle manager is being integrated for flight tests.
MEADS International demonstrated a launcher designed to launch 12 PAC-3 MSE missiles.
The MEADS launcher is designed to roll-on / roll-off C-130 and A400M transport aircraft.
MEADS provides capabilities envisioned for Nato's European missile defences.