$7.5B MDA Budget Request Includes $100M for Kill Vehicle Redesign

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WASHINGTON — The 2015 budget request for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency includes nearly $100 million to redesign the kill vehicle that tops the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptor, the agency’s director said March 4.

The proposed Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) redesign effort is part of a total budget request of $7.5 billion for the MDA, which received $7.6 billion for the current fiscal year.

U.S. Navy Vice Adm. James Syring, the head of the MDA, told reporters in a March 4 briefing that “there’s been a longstanding need” to boost the EKV’s reliability.

Concerns about the system’s reliability stem from three consecutive intercept failures of the GMD system, the primary U.S. territorial missile shield. At least two of those failures, the latest of which occurred in July, have been attributed to issues with the EKV, which is designed to destroy incoming missile warheads by force of direct impact.

In January, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester recommended that the MDA consider redesigning the system, built by Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz. Notwithstanding changes known as the Capability Enhancement 2 upgrade, the EKV has not had a significant change to its fundamental design in more than a decade, experts say.

“The redesigned EKV will be built with a modular open architecture and designed with common interfaces and standards, making upgrades easier and broadening our vendor and supply base,” Syring said.

But Syring revealed little about which companies might help move the program forward.

When asked if the redesign work would be open for competition, Syring said the MDA could follow that route, solicit modifications from Raytheon to the existing design, hold a limited competition or follow another path entirely.

“There’s a whole range of acquisition options that we’ll analyze,” he said.

Syring said he did not believe it was an EKV quality issue that marred the July GMD test, although a failure review is still underway.

“We are narrowing in on the root cause,” he said. “I’m confident that we’ll understand that in the next few weeks enough to have accounted for it in the next intercept test if it applies to the” Capability Enhancement-2 version of the EKV.

The next test of the Capability Enhancement 2 kill vehicle is expected this summer, Syring said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in March 2013 that the MDA would add 14 interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, one of the two GMD interceptor sites, by 2017. Syring said the 2015 budget request continues to follow that plan.

The request also does not appear to provide money for a follow-on program to the Space Tracking and Surveillance System. Syring said the missile tracking satellites have “performed beyond what we expected” and will “be fine for the next few years,” but that the agency was working on “what the follow-on system or capability will be and when it will be.”

The satellites, built by Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems of Los Angeles, were launched into low Earth orbit in 2009.

“We’ll envision what that next follow-on capability is with Air Force and other partners,” he said.

The White House last year canceled MDA plans for an operational constellation of low-orbiting missile tracking satellites.

Syring said the budget request also includes $435 million to buy 30 Standard Missile 3 Block 1B interceptors. The Pentagon recently announced contracts in January and in March for 44 of the interceptors in 2014. The agency is also requesting another $69 million for long-lead items for the interceptors.

The MDA is also asking for $464 for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system built by Lockheed Martin. The money includes 31 interceptors, Syring said.