Pentagon Kills Multi-Billion-Dollar Boeing Missile Defense Contract Over Design Issues

© Flickr / U.S. Missile Defense AgencyThe Missile Defense Agency's test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD). The Ground-Based Interceptor launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on June 22, 2014.
The Missile Defense Agency's test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD). The Ground-Based Interceptor launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on June 22, 2014. - Sputnik International
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The US Department of Defense revealed this week that its multi-billion-dollar Boeing contract to develop a new ballistic missile interceptor was dead in the water as a result of the project being riddled with design issues.

The call to terminate the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) program was made by Mike Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, on August 14. The termination, which cited “technical design problems,” was effective August 22.

“Ending the program was the responsible thing to do,” Griffin told Defense News in a Wednesday statement. “Development programs sometimes encounter problems. After exercising due diligence, we decided the path we’re going down wouldn’t be fruitful, so we’re not going down that path anymore.”

“This decision supports our efforts to gain full value from every future taxpayer dollar spent on defense,” he added.

The Boeing-led RKV program, which had a price tag of some $5.8 billion, was expected to produce a replacement for the Pentagon’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle on the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system’s interceptor. According to Defense News, the new kill vehicle would have also been fitted onto roughly 64 future ground-based interceptors.

When the program was first launched in 2016, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) indicated that it planned to conduct the project’s first flight test in 2019, with fielding to follow in 2020. However, later time estimates pushed the program’s fielding to 2025, Breaking Defense reported.

A stop work order was previously issued on the contract after both the MDA and Boeing in December 2018 deferred a critical design review of the RKV over officials’ discovery of failures in “critical components” of the program’s designs. “The department ultimately determined the technical design problems were so significant as to be either insurmountable or cost-prohibitive to correct,” Griffin explained in his Wednesday statement.

Raytheon, which was a subcontractor on the program and served as the developer of the RKV, indicated that it was supportive of the move, and that the company will “continue to develop and offer a wide range of advanced missile defense technologies available to protect the United States now and in the future.”

Moving forward, the Defense Department expects to initiate a competition for a new contract to design the next generation interceptor for the GMD system.

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