Raytheon is awaiting word from the Pentagon to resume producing a kinetic kill vehicle, following a missile-intercept test on Sunday described as successful.
A second-generation Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, mounted atop an interceptor missile, successfully destroyed an intermediate-range ballistic missile target in a test over the Pacific Ocean. It was the first time out of three costly attempts that the so-called "CE-2" system was able to intercept a mock threat.
In the wake of previous failed tests, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency had stopped accepting more CE-2 kill vehicles, though 10 of them are already fielded on long-range interceptors deployed in silos in California and Alaska as part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system. The antimissile framework is considered the United States' principal defense against a limited-range intercontinental ballistic missile strike.
"There are no other hurdles that we're aware of, so we expect that we will go into production shortly," Raytheon's vice president for air and missile defense systems, Wes Kremer, said during a phone call with reporters on Monday. Kremer said the Pentagon has not yet formally directed Raytheon to restart production of the kill vehicle, Reuters reported.
The Pentagon is planning to deploy an additional 14 interceptors outfitted with kinetic kill vehicles in Alaska by 2017 in response to concerns about North Korea's advances in missile development.
Kremer said his company was eager to also finish developing an altogether new design for the kill vehicle, which the Missile Defense Agency would like to see fielded around 2017-2018.
Sunday's test "does not negate the need to do a redesign to improve the overall reliability of the kill vehicle," Kremer said.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.