Country of origin
Germany, Italy, United States
Number of missiles per launcher
Range of fire
~ 40 km
Altitude of fire
~ 20 km
Extended Air Defense System or MEADS was jointly developed by
Germany, Italy and the United States. This air defense system was
intended to replace the
systems in Germany and the United States, as well as ageing Nike
Hercules systems in Italy. Development was initiated in 2004 by Italy and
the United States. In 2005 Germany officially joined the program.
The United States originally planned to obtain 48 MEADS launchers
with 1 528 missiles, however in 2011 the Pentagon deiced to cancel
the procurement, but continued funding the development. The MEADS
air defense system reached initial operational capability in 2012.
It will gradually replace the older systems in Germany and Italy.
Interestingly, the MEADS is used by Italian Air Force, however
Italian Army uses a different
role of the MEADS is to defend maneuver forces and key installations
against aircraft, helicopters, UAVs, as well as tactical and
short-range ballistic missiles (with a maximum range of up to 1 000
km), and cruise missiles.
system uses proven MIM-104F missiles. The same missiles are used by
Patriot PAC-3 system. This missile is highly maneuverable and
destroys targets by ramming them. Yet still it has a small HE-FRAG
warhead to enhance the kill probability. The MIM-104F missile is the
baseline interceptor of the system, though on German MEADS systems
it is expected to be supplemented by a secondary IRIS-T SLS
MIM-104F missile has a range of around 40 km. It is likely that it
can reach targets at an altitude of up to 20 km. Range of the IRIS-T
SLS is likely to be up to 35 km. Missiles are stored in canisters.
Each launcher vehicle of
the MEADS is equipped with 12 missiles. Unlike
the Patriot launcher, which fires at a fixed firing angles, the
MEADS launcher fires nearly vertically at a 70° launch position and can engage
targets through 360 degrees.
launchers use a palletized load handling system. So the whole set of
12 missiles can be rapidly reloaded.
The MEADS is
a mobile system. Even though it can not operate while on the move,
all of the system components can be briefly redeployed. A battery of
launchers with associated support vehicles can change their position
up to several times a day.
battery operates will
less system assets, personnel and equipment than the older Patriot battery. The complete
battery includes six launcher vehicles, one surveillance radar, two
multifunctional fire control radar, two battle management systems,
and reloading vehicles, that carry spare missiles for the launchers.
Radars of the MEADS have
a 360 degree coverage, while the Patriot radars were limited to 120
degrees. Furthermore launchers, radars and battle management systems
can be located remotely from one another. This feature improves
overall survivability of the system.
The multi-function fire
control radar is an X-band solid-state phased array radar with an
Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA). It provides precision
tracking and discrimination and classification capabilities. The
radar uses its main beam for missile guidance, eliminating the need
for a separate guidance array. This radar also provides friend or
foe identification capability.
surveillance radar provides long-range detection of low radar
cross-section objects. This radar operates below detection frequency
of current anti-radiation missiles.
The battle management
system is basically a command and control element of the MEADS. It
provides battle management for the launcher units. It calculates
optimal engagements and sends firing commands to the launcher
vehicles. At least two launchers can fire simultaneously in order to
defended against multiple threats or massed missile attacks.
defense system has an open architecture, that allows any combination of
radars and launchers to be organized into a single coordinated air and missile
defense network. Furthermore the MEADS is interoperable by other
NATO air and missile defense systems and can be coordinated by NATO command
and control structure. This allows to combine air defense and
anti-ballistic assets of various countries into one single network.
of the German MEADS systems are based on
military trucks. These are purpose-designed military vehicles that
have good cross-country mobility and can travel over tough terrain.
Components of Italian
systems are based on unusual ARIS AGC trucks. These vehicles were
developed for transportation of special equipment an were tailored
to fit into internal bay of the
C-130J Super Hercules aircraft. These vehicles can drive on the
C-130J and drive off with their equipment without any preparation.
of the US systems were based on
series military trucks with 6x6 configuration. The United States
originally planned to obtain 48 MEADS launchers with 1 528 missiles,
however in 2011 the Pentagon canceled the procurement.
system components can be airlifted by an
C-17 Globemaster III or
C-5 Galaxy military transport aircraft. A single C-17 can carry
3 vehicles. The Italian systems can
be even airlifted by smaler C-130J Super Hercules tactical transport