As Boeing
eyes international business opportunities in the missile defense arena, the prime contractor on the U.S. territorial missile shield
likely will focus on integration of assets like sensors and interceptors
rather than hardware construction, according to the
company’s top defense official.


Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis
is preparing to install radars and interceptors in Europe that would both extend the Ground Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system’s coverage across the Atlantic and enhance protection of the U.S. mainland. But Jim Albaugh, the company’s president and chief executive, said geography will limit opportunities to sell GMD hardware elsewhere.


The GMD system is designed to engage missiles launched by nations located a great distance from U.S. shores, such as North Korea. It is not designed to engage relatively short-range missiles, which is the threat faced by many of the countries that otherwise might be potential buyers of GMD hardware, Albaugh said in an April 8 interview.


For example, a missile launched at the United Arab Emirates by neighboring Iran likely would arrive in less than 10 minutes following a trajectory that never leaves the atmosphere, Albaugh said. The GMD’s ground-based interceptors, designed to engage incoming warheads in space, would be ineffective in such a scenario, he said.


“I don’t think we’re going to go peddle [GMD] anywhere,” Albaugh said.


However, Boeing’s
experience in connecting the GMD interceptors with various sensors around the world could be useful to
other countries seeking
to improve the
networks that link their radar systems with lower-altitude interceptors like the Patriot Advanced Capability-3
, which is used by several U.S. allies
, Albaugh said. In many cases, this may entail linking
systems that were not designed to work in concert
, he said.


Domestically, Boeing is eying potential opportunities in space-based missile tracking. Specifically, the company is
weighing the possibility of competing to develop an operational constellation of Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS)
satellites that could follow a two-satellite demonstration planned for this year, according to Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems in Arlington, Va.


The U.S. Missile Defense Agency had hoped to launch the STSS demonstration satellites this summer, but agency officials said
a crowded
launch manifest for the Delta 2 rocket that will loft the satellites has pushed the mission to
late fall. Both satellites are slated to fly aboard a single vehicle.


The demonstration satellites were built by Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., and the Missile Defense Agency previously planned to stick with that company when it comes time to build the long-delayed operational tracking constellation. However, the agency
now is considering opening that work up to competition.

Boeing would be “interested in participating in any change in direction with regard to [STSS],” Fancher said.


Boeing is devoting some internal research and development funding to satellite concepts for both tracking and even intercepting missile warheads, Fancher said. But he noted that it is unclear whether or when Congress or the White House would approve the deployment of space-based missile defenses.