The Pentagon's senior financial official says that Sunday's successful intercept test will permit plans to acquire more missile interceptors to move forward.
"It certainly paves the way" to proceed with acquisition plans for 14 additional Ground Based Interceptors, Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale told Reuters on Tuesday.
A GBI missile armed with a second-generation kinetic kill vehicle eliminated a ballistic missile target in the Sunday test, which played out above the Pacific Ocean. The test was a closely watched event because the Pentagon's plans to spend $1 billion to acquire 14 more of the interceptors were seen as hinging on the outcome. Previously, the missile's last successful intercept had been in 2008, followed by three unsuccessful attempts.
"If we had had continued failures, we would have had to rethink," Hale said. "But I think our plan now remains to buy the original 14 interceptors."
The Pentagon wants to have the new long-range interceptors fielded at Fort Greely in Alaska by 2017 as a countermeasure to North Korea's strategic missile program. The missiles are to be equipped with the "CE-2" Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, which had not had a successful intercept before Sunday.
The Missile Defense Agency had stopped receiving CE-2 kill vehicles due to their testing problems, though 10 of the systems are already deployed on interceptors in Alaska and California. Their developer, Raytheon Co., now anticipates being given authorization soon to resume production of the kinetic components.
"I can't go into programmatic details" of when manufacturing will restart for the CE-2 component, Wes Kremer, vice president for Raytheon's air and missile defense system programs, was quoted by Inside Defense as telling journalists on Monday. "But clearly, the intent is to take this design with the fixes and deploy that as the CE-2 configuration."
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