Will MBDA play the Lockheed Martin card? The European missile group is reported to be forming a new joint venture with the U.S. company in order to reassure the German government that it can complete a €4bn contract for the delivery of the MEADS air defence system, according to Reuters. The two groups behind the design of MEADS are believed to be discussing the details of the proposal with Berlin, with a view to making an official announcement in the next few weeks.
Reuters reported that “MBDA and Lockheed are to form essentially a 50-50 joint venture in which MBDA, as the domestic prime contractor, will have an additional vote […] That will ensure stronger management and shift some of the risk to Lockheed.”
Selected in June 2015 to replace Germany’s Patriot system, MEADS has since faced a series of problems, the latest of which was a week ago when the German Ministry of Defence announced that it could not implement this contract before the summer recess nor, and more importantly, prior to the upcoming federal elections in September.
According to sources quoted by Reuters, the Ministry of Defence considers that there is still work to be done not only on the MBDA proposal, but also on how the project will be carried out. The proposal sent by MBDA in September 2016 had indeed raised a series of issues which the company has since addressed. The German Defence Ministry nevertheless concluded that there would be no time to complete the terms of the contract and to submit it to the Bundestag for ratification before the elections. This is all the more surprising given that MBDA is achieving record results for the 2013-2016 period and plans to hire around 1,100 people in 2017.
Developed jointly by Lockheed Martin and the Italian and German subsidiaries of MBDA, MEADS would provide a technological boost to the Bundeswehr. Fully air-transportable by C-130 or A400M, it is able to handle any threat in a radius of 360°. Its open architecture and plug-and-fight capability allows it to easily recognise and connect to any existing system, allowing the user to integrate its own subsystems. This is a capability which German industry hopes to benefit from, notably through the integration of the IRIS-T SL missile produced by Diehl BGT Defence.
MEADS is probably not out of the woods yet across the Rhine, despite the German Defence Ministry’s plans that it should enter service in… 2025.