The Medium Extended Air Defence System (MEADS), a joint air and missile defence system under development by the US, Italy and Germany, has passed its System Preliminary Design Review.

Detailed design work can now begin, with the Critical Design Review scheduled for 2009, US developer Lockheed Martin says.

Flight tests for the system are expected to take place in 2011.

MEADS is a mobile air and missile defence system that will replace Patriot systems in the US and Germany and Nike Hercules systems in Italy.

MEADS will incorporate the hit-to-kill PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missile in a system that includes 360-degree surveillance and fire control sensors, netted-distributed battle management/communication centres and high-firepower launchers.

The system is 58 percent funded by the US, with Germany providing 25 percent and Italy 17 percent.

It is being jointly developed by US firm Lockheed Martin, MBDA in Italy and LFK in Germany.

By Elizabeth Clifford-Marsh