November 06, 2013
Credit: Lockheed Martin
The tri-national Medium-Extended Air Defense System (Meads) achieved two successful intercepts in its second and last planned flight test Nov. 6, as prime contractor Lockheed Martin readies itself to proceed with a production program despite a lack of U.S. support going forward.
Meads successfully acquired, tracked and destroyed two targets — one air-breathing and another ballistic missile — fulfilling two of the test objectives, says Marty Coyne, Lockheed Martin’s lead business development official for Meads.
This second flight test for Meads originally was slated to counter only a theater ballistic missile; a Lance surface-to-surface target was used for the test, which took place at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M. But the Italian, German and American development partners agreed to increase the complexity of the trial by adding an air-breathing QF-4, simulating a cruise missile.
In both cases, the Meads PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor successfully collided with the targets after flying “over-the-shoulder” trajectories. This is when an interceptor engages a target from behind it.
There are several points of note in this trial. The two targets approached the defended area roughly 180-deg. from one another, forcing the system to showcase its unique, 360-deg. coverage capability. “There is no other air and missile defense system that could do this,” Coyne says.
Also stressing the system, the targets flew at vastly different altitudes, with the simulated cruise missile flying a low profile from the south and the Lance ballistic missile intercept occurring at a far higher altitude from the north, Coyne said. Company officials said they were not allowed for security reasons to release the exact engagement altitudes. However, the scenario was crafted to be operationally relevant, especially as forces become more expeditionary and operate surrounded geographically by potential targets in the future.
Finally, this was the first Meads flight test to include use of all of the system’s components. The flight trial last November that resulted in a successful intercept of an air-breathing target did not employ the Meads 360-deg. surveillance radar for initial target acquisition and cueing, though it was used for the recent trial.
A third PAC-3 MSE was fired in accordance with operational protocol as a backup for the ballistic missile engagement. Because the first hit the target, the interceptor was directed to self-destruct; it would have been used for the engagement if the first interceptor failed its mission.
This trial also demonstrated a successful uplink and downlink from the Meads fire control radar to the MSE missiles in flight, one of the test objectives.