Lockheed Martin Corp. and its global partners have begun system-level testing in Italy for an international missile defense system, even as budget hawks on Capitol Hill want to kill the program.
The tests at Pratica di Mare Air Force Base near Rome will check performance of the multifunction fire control radar in the Medium Extended Air Defense System, known as MEADS. A key benefit of the radar includes a 360-degree capability.
An initial MEADS flight test was successfully completed at New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range in November 2011. Integration work continues in support of two intercept tests planned at the same location.
MEADS, which is being developed by a joint venture including Lockheed Martin in the U.S. and MBDA in Italy and Germany, is funded jointly by the three countries. As defined in a 2005 memo of understanding, the U.S. is contributing 58 percent of the funding, and Italy and Germany are making up the rest.
The total price tag is $3.4 billion, which means the U.S. is on the hook to contribute $806 million more, split between 2012 and 2013.
Some members of Congress are pushing to eliminate the funds, essentially forcing the U.S. to back out of its deal with the international partners. This created a firestorm of response from the White House and the Department of Defense, as well as from the German and Italian allies.
Despite full funding for the 2013 obligation in President Barack Obama‘s budget proposal,questions remain about whether the U.S. will be able to pay its share in 2012. Nonetheless, work continues amid the squabbling.