MEADS | Missile Defense

Product Type:

Surface-to-Air Missile Defense System

Using Service (US):


Program Status:

U.S. left program at end of FY 2013

Prime Contractor:

MEADS International (A multinational joint
venture btw. MBDA, Lenkflugkörpersysteme
(LFK) and Lockheed Martin)

Patriot MEADS

About MEADS:

The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) is a cooperative effort among the United States, Germany, and Italy to develop a ground based air and tactical missile defense system as a future replacement for the Patriot Missile System (U.S. and Germany), Hawk (Germany), and Nike Hercules (Italy). The United States funds 58% of MEADS while Germany and Italy provide 25% and 17%, respectively. The countries have spent about $3.4 billion to develop MEADS over the past decade.

On February 14, 2011, the DoD announced that the United States would stop all MEADS funding after fiscal year 2013 (when the current development contract expires), calling it unaffordable in the current budget climate. Continuing the development of MEADS until FY 2013 rather than cancelling it immediately, has avoided costly termination fees. The governments of Germany and Italy have stated that they will not proceed and develop/purchase MEADS on their own. In April 2012, Lockheed Martin announced that it hoped to see MEADS make it through to production. The company was cautiously optimistic that the program would receive full funding in FY 2013. As planned, the United States pulled out of the program at the end of FY 2013. The DoD plans to leverage technologies from the MEADS system for other missile defense activities.

If circumstances change and MEADS is produced, the system will be a highly mobile, tactically deployable system providing defense to critical assets from short to medium range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and tactical air-to-surface missiles. Mounted on wheeled vehicles, the system will include launchers carrying several interceptors along with advanced radars that will provide 360-degree coverage on the battlefield. Interceptors will use the latest hit-to-kill technology (directly hitting the target to destroy it). MEADS will have a netted and distributed architecture with modular components to increase survivability and flexibility of employment in a number of operational configurations. The cooperative effort will help promote interoperability within NATO forces and will help bridge the gap between short-range maneuver air and missile defense systems and the long-range Ballistic Missile Defense System elements.

The Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) is the primary missile for MEADS, which performs at an extended range beyond the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile.

Unlike the Patriot Missile System, MEADS will be able to destroy all incoming tactical or medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, aircraft and UAVs. It provides vastly greater firepower, combat-proven hit-to-kill technology, 360-degree radar coverage, and a so-called plug-and-fight battle management network architecture. According to Lockheed Martin, MEADS defends up to 8 times the coverage area of other systems but uses far fewer system assets, thus allowing for a substantial reduction in deployed personnel and equipment + reduced demand for airlift.

The objective MEADS Fire Unit, designed to be scalable and tailorable to operational requirements, will consist of: two Battle Management Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence (BMC4I) tactical operations center (TOC), enabling distributed system operations and Beyond-Line-of-Site (BLOS) engagements for maximum protection of supported forces by engaging at longer ranges; six near-vertical launchers capable of transporting and launching up to eight missiles; three launcher reloaders; MSE missiles; an ultra-high frequency (UHF) surveillance radar that provides 360-degree coverage and near-range to long-range detection of low radar cross-section targets; and two X-band Multifunction Fire Control Radars that provide 360-degree coverage and are designed for high-precision handover to the in-flight missile, discrimination capabilities, and short-range target detection and horizon search.

The NATO MEADS Management Agency (MEADS Agency) is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) contracting authority providing management of the MEADS program on behalf of the participating nations and is responsible for managing the system acquisition. The U.S. and Italy signed the Design and Development (D&D) MOU on September 24, 2004, and September 27, 2004, respectively. The MEADS Agency awarded the MEADS D&D contract to MEADS International Inc. on September 28, 2004, initiating the MEADS D&D phase. The MOU was amended in March 2005 by the U.S. and Italy to allow the German Parliament additional time for their signature decision and on April 22, 2005 Germany signed the MOU. The MEADS Agency awarded a $3.4 billion D&D definitized contract to MEADS International Inc. on May 31, 2005. Within the Patriot/MEADS Combined Aggregate Program there are two synergistic efforts: an international MEADS development effort managed by the MEADS Agency, and a U.S. effort to inject U.S. specific capability requirements into the MEADS major end items.

On November 17, 2011, MEADS successfully completed its first flight test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. On November 6, 2013, in the final test before the U.S. pulls out of the program, MEADS successfully destroyed two targets simultaneously at White Sands Missile Range.

Price/Unit Cost:

The price/unit cost of the MSE missile used for the MEADS will be in the range of $6.9 to 9.6 million from FY2014-FY2017. The unit cost is eventually expected to drop to less than $5 million. These price estimates do not include research & development costs (RDT&E).


The MEADS provides joint and coalition forces with critical assets to defend area protection against multiple and simultaneous attacks and with the capability to counter, defeat, or destroy the missiles or aerial vehicles. Furthermore, MEADS will provide significant improvements in strategic deployability, transportability, mobility, and maneuverability.

FY 2013 DoD Program:

Completes developmental approach testing and demonstration of the MEADS capability, allowing the United States, Germany and Italy to harvest suitable technology from the program for use in existing air defense architectures.

FY 2014 DoD Program:

No funding allocated for the MEADS Program in FY 2014. For more information, click to view the FY2014 DoD MEADS Budget.

Sources: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Lockheed Martin Corp.,
and MEADS International Inc.

Specifications DoD Spending FY2014 Budget

Last Update: November 19, 2013.

By Joakim Kasper Oestergaard /// (

External Resources:

Lockheed Martin: MEADS
MEADS International: MEADS

YouTube: MEADS | YouTube Videos

Fact Sheet: MEADS | Fact Sheet
Fact Sheet: Patriot PAC-3 MSE | Fact Sheet

MEADS U.S. Defense Budget Charts:

DoD Spending on the MEADS Program in FY2011, FY2012, FY2013 and FY2014
DoD MEADS Purchases in FY2011, FY2012, FY2013 and FY2014
DoD Budget Data

DoD Spending, Procurement and RDT&E: FY 2011/12 + Budget for FYs 2013 and 2014

DoD Defense Spending, Procurement, Modifications, Spares, and RDT&E for the Patriot MEADS Program

Download Official U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Budget Data:

MEADS RDT&E (ARMY) Sequestration FY2013

Aircraft Programs Missile Programs Space Programs Shipbuilding Programs Vehicle Programs