The German government expects to receive a long-awaited industry offer for revamping the country's missile defenses next month, just as the debate in Germany over defense spending kicks into high gear once again.
The proposal by contractors Lockheed Martin and MBDA Germany for the TLVS program, short for Taktisches Luftverteidigungssystem, will roughly coincide with the Cabinet's final deliberations on a 2020 budget pitch to lawmakers. Clocking in at an estimated €8 billion, or $8.93 billion, the program is sure to face intense scrutiny once the Bundestag gets wind of the details.
Lockheed Martin and MBDA are expected to pitch a program that they argue bears little resemblance to the features of its predecessor, the Medium Extended Air Defense System, or MEADS. On the table is a six- to seven-year development stage, including some initial production of equipment so that German authorities can run tests on new hardware.
One of the key cost drivers lies in preparing the system to one day defend against hypersonic missiles, which means threats flying faster than five times the speed of sound. The feature is in response to German requirements and keeping an eye on Russian developmental weaponry.
Analysts are only now beginning to assess the full extent of hypersonic defense requirements. But it seems likely that a new generation of interceptors more powerful than the envisioned TLVS house ammo, the Lockheed-made MSE missiles, eventually will be needed.
In addition, German officials have pushed to have the entire system under their national control, including the so-called exciter for the fire-control radar. That piece of hardware, a 4 feet by 2.5 feet- sized box, is dubbed the brains of the weapon because it performs all flight-path computations needed to obliterate incoming missiles. The exciter was going to remain a Lockheed Martin-controlled ingredient until German defense officials pushed for a local version, a task that will fall to Hensoldt in the forthcoming offer.
Contributing to the German industry footprint - designed to trumpet a domestic bent and spread the parliamentary love across more districts - is the integration of the so-called IRIS-T SL interceptor made by Diehl Defence. That effort, in turn, comes with the integration of the SAMOC guidance system, made by European defense powerhouse Airbus.
Program advocates still have hope to interest other governments in Europe in the envisioned technology. For example, there is the question of rekindling an old MEADS alliance with Italy.
Italian military commanders are keenly interested in the idea of re-entering the program, although that interest has yet to be shared by politicians, an Italian defense source told Defense News.
Since taking office last year, Italy's populist government has already cut its investment in the European CAMM-ER missile program, and may struggle to meet ongoing funding commitments this year as the country's economy dips and it seeks cash for welfare programs.
The ground-based, tactical air and missile defence system TLVS is designed for protecting troops in out-of-area missions as well as protection of facilities and spaces in alliance and national-defence contexts.
Equipped with 360° radar systems, a command post with leading-edge technology and hit-to-kill missiles, the system can be used to combat all airborne targets, including cruise missiles and tactical-ballistic missiles. TLVS will be developed on the basis of MEADS (Medium Extended Air Defense System).