Pentagon Plans to Ax Missile-Interceptor Redesign Under Sequestration

The Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, seen in a photo released in late 2002. The Pentagon on Tuesday announced that if sequestration remains in effect in future years, it would cancel plans to redesign the troubled component.
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Rachel Oswald
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Rachel Oswald
April 16, 2014, 10:59 a.m.

The Pentagon would ax a re­design of the front-end kill vehicle atop its stra­tegic mis­sile in­ter­cept­or if fu­ture se­quest­ra­tion cuts re­main law.

Se­quest­ra­tion levels were re­laxed in de­fense spend­ing le­gis­la­tion for fisc­al 2014 and 2015. However, should these con­gres­sion­ally man­dated re­duc­tions slated for 2016 and bey­ond re­main in ef­fect, the De­fense De­part­ment plans to can­cel an ef­fort to cor­rect design prob­lems in its key mis­sile-de­fense in­ter­cept­or.

The De­fense De­part­ment re­vealed this budget­ing con­tin­gency plan for the Exoat­mo­spher­ic Kill Vehicle in a re­port re­leased on Tues­day, titled “Es­tim­ated Im­pacts of Se­quest­ra­tion-Level Fund­ing.” The de­part­ment also an­nounced it would elim­in­ate a sep­ar­ate pro­gram to ac­quire an ad­di­tion­al land-based, long-range radar in the event that spend­ing re­duc­tions re­quired un­der the 2011 Budget Con­trol Act will kick in, come fisc­al 2016.

The Exoat­mo­spher­ic Kill Vehicle is moun­ted atop the Ground Based In­ter­cept­or and is de­signed to des­troy in­com­ing bal­list­ic mis­siles by kin­et­ic force. The three most re­cent in­ter­cept tests that em­ployed the kin­et­ic tech­no­logy all ended in fail­ure, lead­ing the Pentagon’s head of weapons test­ing to re­com­mend a re­design earli­er this year. The long-range in­ter­cept­or is a crit­ic­al ele­ment of the broad­er Ground-based Mid­course De­fense sys­tem, which is con­sidered the prin­cip­al U.S. de­fense against a po­ten­tial stra­tegic mis­sile at­tack.

The de­part­ment’s Mis­sile De­fense Agency an­nounced in March it would seek a re­design of the EKV tech­no­logy and re­ques­ted $100 mil­lion for the pro­ject in fisc­al 2015. Total fund­ing for the pro­ject from fisc­al 2015 through fisc­al 2019 was planned to be $738 mil­lion. The bulk of pro­ject fund­ing was slated to come in fisc­al 2016 and 2017.

The Mis­sile De­fense Agency last month said it was re­quest­ing $80 mil­lion for the radar in the up­com­ing fisc­al year, which starts Oct. 1. The sensor is ex­pec­ted to mon­it­or the Pa­cific Ocean, in line with a dir­ect­ive by Con­gress un­der the fisc­al 2014 De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act to de­ploy an ad­di­tion­al X-band radar that would fo­cus on any threats com­ing from North Korea.

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