The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) again is using a second contractor as a backup on a key program just in case the initial approach falters. In this case

MDA has turned

to Raytheon Co. to provide an alternative concept for the design of a

missile interceptor that takes a shotgun approach to destroying ballistic missiles.

MDA has been working with Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., on the program, the Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) effort, since 2004, but decided during the development of its 2008 budget request

to begin parallel work with Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz., to give itself more flexibility, according to Rich Matlock, the Missile Defense Agency’s MKV program manager.

MDA’s 2004 contract with Lockheed Martin has a potential total value of $768 million.

If one of the MKV concepts runs into difficulty, the other could serve as a backup, Matlock said during a June 7 interview.

Chuck Ross, who is overseeing Raytheon’s work under the MKV program in addition to serving as vice president for the Kinetic Energy Interceptor system at Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz., said

Raytheon is currently refining its concept with its own funding as it negotiates a contract with MDA that would begin in 2008. Raytheon’s involvement with the MKV effort came when it responded to an MDA request for information last year, Ross added.

Matlock said MDA is planning to modify Raytheon’s existing contract for work on the Standard Missile-3 to cover the company’s MKV work.

Matlock compared the parallel approach on MKV to MDA’s earlier decision to take a dual approach to developing a boost-phase missile defense capability by funding both

the Kinetic Energy Interceptor and the Airborne Laser.

MDA also paid Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., and Lockheed Martin to each develop

booster vehicles for the Ground Based Midcourse Defense System.

Orbital Sciences was brought on board in 2002 after the Lockheed Martin design, which was inherited from Boeing Co., the prime contractor on the Ground Based Midcourse Defense System, had run into problems. MDA later canceled the Lockheed Martin booster effort leaving Orbital to take over the booster project.

The MKV is intended to


MDA address a

challenging issue:

discriminating between a missile’s actual warhead and decoys that might accompany it.

The MKV is designed to destroy all of the most likely targets in the immediate area with a batch of small kill vehicles.

Lockheed Martin’s concept relies on a “mother ship” carrier vehicle to deploy the kill vehicles and coordinate their targeting.

Raytheon’s concept, which it calls the Multiple Engagement Payload, eschews a carrier vehicle in favor of deploying the kill vehicles directly from the interceptor rocket, Matlock said. One of the kill vehicles coordinates the targeting functions for the others, and should it malfunction or destroy a target, another kill vehicle can pick up the coordination function, he said.

Ross said

leaving out the carrier vehicle that handles communications between the kill vehicles out of the equation reduces the chances of a single point failure by designing each kill vehicle to communicate directly with the others.

Leaving out the carrier vehicle also results in weight savings, allowing the potential use of more kill vehicles, Ross said.

Lockheed Martin currently is scheduled to flight test its concept for MKV in 2012, but MDA would like to move that date up a year, Matlock said. MDA would like to conduct a series of flight tests with increasing complexity that culminates with intercept demonstrations involving production-ready systems, he said.

Ross said

Raytheon could be ready for a flight test in 2013. Meeting that date is more a function of money than technology, as Raytheon believes that much of the technology already is mature from Raytheon’s work on kill vehicles for the interceptors used with the Ground Based Midcourse Defense System and the Standard Missile-3, Ross said.

Rick Reginato, MKV program director at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, said that the addition of Raytheon to the effort does not change Lockheed Martin’s planned work on the effort, which he said has gone well thus far.

Reginato said that Lockheed Martin conducted analysis early in the program that it revalidated last year that was intended to find the most cost effective MKV concept.

Reginato said the carrier vehicle contains more sophisticated hardware and software than the kill vehicles, as well as the ability to monitor the engagement and provide threat and kill assessment data back to troops on the ground.

“Centralizing these capabilities in a single carrier vehicle rather than replicating them in all of the kill vehicles reduces overall cost of the MKV payload,” Reginato said.

The carrier vehicle has a sensor that is powerful enough to view targets at long range, which allows the kill vehicles to be released as early as possible, Matlock said. The carrier also can maneuver to address booster heading errors for all the kill vehicles at once, allowing the kill vehicles to use their maneuvering fuel most efficiently, he said.

The primary advantage from Raytheon’s concept is that removing the carrier from the equation helps to overcome the volume and weight limits inherent with booster rockets, Matlock said.

“These two different concepts give us a diverse solution set for tackling the problem of delivering volume kill to the [ballistic missile defense system] and the warfighter as soon as possible,” Matlock said.

While Raytheon conducts its early study work on its version of the MKV, the Missile Defense Agency

has several tests planned with key components of the MKV hardware over the next several years.

The agency plans to test the carrier vehicle’s divert and attitude control system developed by Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., in July at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Matlock said. Successful completion of that test will clear the way for a hover flight test with a carrier filled with inert kill vehicles inside a facility at Edwards that provides a 1g environment next summer, he said.

Another key component for Lockheed Martin’s design is the carrier vehicle’s targeting sensor, which is being developed by BAE Systems Electronics & Integrated Solutions of Nashua, N.H.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering, MDA’s director, called the carrier vehicle’s targeting coordination the biggest technical challenge in the program during an April 5 briefing for reporters in Washington.

Over the next two years, MDA has planned a series of ground tests that will lead to exercises where MDA flies the sensor aboard an aircraft at 10,700 to 12,000 meters in altitude, to observe targets during missile defense tests, Matlock said.

Data from the sensor then will be fed to a facility on the ground for use with computer simulations intended to refine algorithms to address the guidance challenge with the kill vehicles, Reginato said.

Other items on the agenda for the MKV program include a study this summer on possible modifications that might

be needed for the MKV program to comply with MDA’s decision

to integrate the kill vehicle with the Kinetic Energy Interceptor and the sea-based Standard Missile-3 Block 2A, Matlock said.

The House Armed Services Committee expressed concern in a report accompanying its version of the 2008 defense authorization legislation that MDA’s decision to incorporate the MKV with the sea-based rockets was done without coordination with Japan, which is working on an upgraded version of the rocket with MDA, and could delay that work.

The House also cut $42 million from MDA’s $271.1 million request for the effort in 2008. The House passed its version of the bill

May 17; the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the bill, which is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor after having been reported out of the committee on June 5, provides the full budget request for the program.

Matlock said

MDA is

encouraging congressional staffers on getting

full funding for the program in the final versions of the defense spending bills, but has not completed an analysis yet on potential impact from the House-recommended figure on the planned flight test schedule.

Matlock said senior MDA officials, including Obering, began coordinating plans in December with

Japan’s military officials regarding the use of MKV on the Standard Missile-3 Block 2A, and that the two nations will work closely on an analysis of the implications of using MKV with the missile. However, Matlock said he does not expect the use of the MKV to disrupt the work on the upgraded sea-based missile.