Lockheed, MEADS officials unveil missile defense Battle Manager

Lockheed Martin and MEADS officials unveiled what they called the future of air and missile defense Tuesday in Huntsville. Much of its development was completed in North Alabama.

Developers called it the brains of the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS). The Army and the Pentagon have wrangled over whether to complete the replacement for the Patriot Air Defense System, but Lockheed Martin's "Battle Manager" will soon be tested.

They rolled out the for the space and missile defense conference at the Von Braun Center. Lockheed and government officials said it can detect threats in airspace, coordinate missile launchers on other tactical vehicles, and military personnel inside can make the decisions.

"Much greater capability in terms of 360 degree coverage. Much greater capability in terms of reduced strategic lift. When you respond somewhere else in the world, you have to take this and deploy it on aircraft. The fewer aircraft used, the better off we are. We have greatly decreased the air lift requirements to deploy a MEADS system," said John Holly, Lockheed's Vice President of Missile Defense Systems.

The Battle Manager is a joint project between the United States, Italy and Germany, with software development and integration done at Research Park. Missile defense could be on the potential cutting board during the budget battles in Washington. Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks said he believes in the tool for the troops.

"I've done the math on it, and it doesn't make any sense to cancel MEADS because the cost to cancel MEADS is greater than the cost to meet our contractual obligations with Lockheed and our European partners," he said.

"The MEADS program is better than what we have in theater now, with the Patriot. MEADS is an upgrade. And to the extent we can afford it, we need to go ahead and finish out the MEADS program and put it out in the field," Brooks added.

Lockheed Martin and MEADS officials people said the Battle Manager has 360 degree detection capability, and can cover eight times the defended area at half the cost while using fewer military personnel.

Testing will begin at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in 2012.

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