Germany May Adapt Patriot After MEADS Missile Project Dropped

Germany may upgrade its short-range missile-defense capability by adapting the aging Patriot system after its planned successor known as MEADS was dropped on cost grounds, a senior Defense Ministry official said.

Germany is looking at alternatives to MEADS and doesn’t rule out adopting the project’s radar technology to upgrade Raytheon Co.’s Patriot, Deputy Defense Minister Ruediger Wolf said in an interview today in Berlin. Such a step would follow a decision by the U.S. to end MEADS, a joint venture of Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp. and the German and Italian arms of MBDA Missile Systems.

“We’re looking at how to apply MEADS technology to gain a return on development costs and to expand defense capability,” Wolf said at a military conference hosted by the Handelsblatt newspaper. “Adopting MEADS radar technology for Patriot is a possibility, while it’s not without problems and not exhaustive of alternatives.”

Lawmakers from the German parliament’s defense committee are urging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to adapt MEADS technology to claw back a return on the investment. Project members Italy, Germany and the U.S. have spent 800 million euros ($1.1 billion) on development programs that run until 2014, creating a deadline for Merkel to decide how to replace the Patriot.

Euro Hawk

Cost overruns, delayed roll-outs and budget squeezes have dogged delivery of German defense procurements including the Euro Hawk drone made by Northrop Grumman Corp. and European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. and NH Industries’ NH90 helicopter. The 2013 defense budget is capped at 19.5 billion euros, a fraction of the U.S. defense budget.

Lockheed Martin and MBDA won a contract in 2005 worth as much as $3.4 billion to build MEADS -- the Medium Extended Air Defense System -- which is designed to have greater battlefield maneuverability than Patriot. EADS’s Cassidian defense unit participated in the development of MEADS radar.

With a 25 percent stake in MEADS, Germany has “virtually 100 percent access to its technology” and should take the lead in adapting the technology to advance European missile defense, Bernd Siebert, a lawmaker with Merkel’s Christian Democrats who sits on the defense committee, said in a Nov. 7 e-mail.

Raytheon this year won U.S. Army contracts to modernize Patriot’s radar capacity. Unlike MEADS, the missile that traces its development to the late 1960s cannot be aimed in all directions. In Dec. 2012, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization backed deployment of Patriot batteries to protect Turkey’s border from Syrian missile attacks.

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