Expect additional funding in the forthcoming fiscal 2015 budget request to address shortcomings in the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense program, according to Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for procurement.
“We are going to be taking an initiative to address some of these problems,” Kendall said during the Credit Suisse/McAleese & Associates Defense Programs conference Feb. 25 in Washington.
“We recognize the problems we have had with all the currently fielded interceptors,” he said. GMD’s last successful intercept was in December 2008; the U.S. Missile Defense Agency has failed to produce an intercept in three attempts since. Problems have been mainly cited with theExoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), the hit-to-kill mechanism designed to counter a warhead in space.
“The root cause was a desire to field these things very quickly and really cheaply,” Kendall said, acknowledging a rush to declare operational capability a decade ago despite a lack of testing. “The detailed engineering that should have been applied to these early designs wasn’t there … We are seeing a lot of bad engineering, frankly, and it is because there was a rush” to field.
In the most recent test last year, MDA used a missile that had been in a silo on alert; it failed to intercept its target. This raised questions not only about the overall system, but about the reliability of those interceptors on alert in Alaska and California.
Sources have told Aviation Week that the 2015 budget request, which will be sent to Congress March 4, will include funding for a new long-range radar for GMD in the Pacific as well as money to backfill gaps in engineering tasks that were apparently shortchanged in earlier years. The plan is also expected to put money toward a new kill vehicle to get away from the finicky EKV (AWIN First, Feb. 12).
“Just patching the things we have is probably not going to be enough, so we are probably going to have to go beyond that,” Kendall said.