Pentagon Contracts Propel Next-Gen Kill Vehicle Development

by

Aerojet will develop thruster-system technology applicable to a next-generation missile defense kill vehicle under a contract that the Pentagon said is worth $35 million over a two-year period.

In a Jan. 8 press release, Sacramento, Calif.-base Aerojet said it had won a contract from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to develop solid-fuel divert and attitude control system (SDACS) technologies for the proposed Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) Block 2B interceptor. Divert and attitude control systems help steer the kill vehicles that top missile interceptors to their targets.

In a response to a query, Aerojet spokeswoman Kristin Conner confirmed that the contract was first announced by the Pentagon Nov. 19. The Pentagon contract does not specifically mention the Block 2B interceptor, saying only that the contract will be used to develop and test SDACS technologies of interest to the Missile Defense Agency.

The agency in September awarded a similar SDACS contract to the ATK Defense Group’s Missile Products Division of Baltimore. That contract is valued at $52.7 million over two years.

In a prepared statement, Marshall Cousineau, Aerojet vice president for advanced programs, said the SDACS contract is part of the Missile Defense Agency’s plan for early demonstration of technologies applicable to sea- and land-based versions of the Block 2B interceptor.

The Block 2B is a planned next-generation variant of the sea-based SM-3 interceptor that in addition to having greater range and performance could be installed on land as part of the White House’s strategy for a European missile shield. Raytheon is the SM-3 prime contractor but is competing against Boeing and Lockheed Martin to build the Block 2B.

How the Missile Defense Agency is funding the Aerojet and Raytheon SDACS contracts is unclear. Congress appropriated just $13 million for the Block 2B program in 2012, and U.S. government programs are being funded at that same level for at least the first six months of fiscal year 2013.

Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency, could not clarify the matter by the time of publication.

The Missile Defense Agency requested $224 million in 2013. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 approved that amount in principle, and directed the agency to submit a report on how the Block 2B interceptor or kill vehicle might be used to defend the U.S. homeland.