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TPA Investigates: Missile Program Needs More Scrutiny and Less Money
11-11-2011 at 12:50 pm - David Williams - Posted in: Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Medium Extended Air Defense System, Defense, David Williams - 0 Comment

The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) has been a hot topic of conversation at the Pentagon and Capitol Hill.  MEADS, which was originally conceived as the replacement to the Patriot missile system, is being jointly built by the United States, Italy, and Germany with the Americans shouldering more than 50 percent of the cost.  Even though the Army doesn’t want the project, there was an additional $800 million allocated for the project through 2013.

Taxpayer groups have expressed their opposition to funding the program over the past years.  On October 3, 2011, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) held a briefing where MEADS was discussed as a primary program to be cut as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka the Super Committee) looks for cuts.  Now, it appears that there will be “test” of MEADS on November 17, a day before the federal government runs out of money and less than a week before the Super Committee presents its deficit reduction plan.  TPA is concerned that this test (which is really more of a demonstration than a test) is nothing more than a dog and pony show to boost the funding of the program and keep it off the chopping block.  In addition, there are many technical questions that need to be asked to verify the validity of this test such as: will the missile be trying to hit a target; If the point of the test is to show that MEADS can protect against threats from any direction (360 degrees), how will firing a single missile accomplish that; and who will be attending the test?  It is also unclear which components of the system will be tested and whether or not there will be independent oversight of the testing and the objectives that the test is intended to accomplish.

To get to the bottom of this, TPA contacted the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medium Extended Air Defense System Management Agency (NAMEADSMA), the Army, and MEADS International. The only entity to respond to TPA was NAMEADSMA which responded with unsatisfactory answers:

 

  • When asked about whether or not the missile will be trying to hit a target, NAMEADSMA responded, “This mission will demonstrate the 360-degree capability of the MEADS Launcher and missile against a simulated target to the rear of the launcher.”  This means the missile is not actually hitting a live target.  So this MEADS demonstration will consist of firing a missile into the air at nothing in particular. An important question remains: If there is no physical target, how will MEADS publicly verify that the missile flew to the right point in space at the correct time? It is hard to understand what the US Army will learn from a missile demonstration where there is no intercept. Apparently the measure of success for this test will be the missile leaving the canister.

 

  • When asked about how firing a single missile will accomplish the task of 360 degree protection NAMEADSMA responded, “Unlike currently fielded Air and Missile Defense (AMD) systems,  MEADS provides 360-degree coverage through the combination of advanced 360-degree rotating sensors, near-vertical launch capability and the improved MEADS MSE missile.  This test will demonstrate an unprecedented over-the-shoulder launch of the MEADS MSE missile by the MEADS launcher against a simulated target attacking from behind.”  This is nothing more than a repeat of the first question with more PR language sprinkled in and raises more questions such as:  how does firing one missile prove 360 degree coverage; when will you do multiple missiles at multiple targets from all 360?

 

  • When asked about who will be attending the test, NAMEADSMA responded, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medium Extended Air Defense System Management Agency (NAMEADSMA), MEADS International (a tri-national team consisting of LFK, MBDA Italia and Lockheed Martin), and the Materiel Test Directorate of White Sands Missile Range will conduct this MEADS System Characterization test.”  However, there is no mention of whether or not any US Army acquisition or requirements officials will be participating. If not, why?

 

A driving force behind continued funding has been the international commitments from Germany and Italy, but it seems as if that support is now waning.  Germany has admitted that it only supports the development of the program and is not interested in procuring any missiles.  Italy is now the driving force behind the program, which could also be problematic.  According to Bloomberg news, “U.K. stocks declined for a second day as investors weighed the possibility of a change of government in Greece and Italy, Europe’s most-indebted countries.”  It may be just a matter of time before Italy runs out of money for the program.

This test, and these questions, come on the heels of a program that is losing its relevancy in the Pentagon and as a way to protect our troops.  The testing of MEADS next week appears to be nothing more than a dog and pony show designed more to impress congressional appropriators rather than a true military test.  Taxpayers and our fighting troops deserve more than funding a program that won’t protect the nation.


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