Nearly $1 billion of that sum will pay for a new homeland defense
radar to be placed in Alaska, with an additional $560 million to
fund work on a new interceptor after several failed flight tests,
said Riki Ellison, founder of the nonprofit Missile Defense Advocacy
Alliance, and two of the congressional sources, who were not
authorized to speak publicly.
The Pentagon's request for added funding comes despite continued
pressure on military spending and cuts in other arms programs, a
sign of Washington's growing concern about missile development
efforts by North Korea and Iran, the sources said.
The White House plans to send its fiscal 2015 budget request to
Congress on March 4.
Missile defense is one of the biggest items in the Pentagon's annual
budget, although Republicans have faulted the Obama administration
for scaling back funding in recent years.
The request is expected to garner bipartisan support in Congress,
but it may also spark questions about billions of dollars spent over
the past two decades on a "kill vehicle" built by the Raytheon Co
that is used to hit enemy missiles and destroy them on impact.
The kill vehicle is part of the larger ground-based missile defense
system managed by Boeing Co. Orbital Sciences Corp builds the
rockets used by the system.
Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department's chief weapons tester, last
week questioned the robustness of the Raytheon kill vehicle after a
series of test failures, and said the Pentagon should consider a
"We need a new interceptor that actually works," said one of the
congressional sources, adding that both of the existing kill vehicle
models also needed to be fixed and tested since the replacement
would need about five years to be made ready.
Ellison said the issue needed to be addressed quickly, given the
Obama administration's push to buy 14 additional ground-based
interceptors to beef up U.S. defenses against a potential missile
strike from North Korea.
"We need to have this thing as soon as possible," Ellison said. He
said some lawmakers might balk at paying for new interceptors that
carried the current troubled kill vehicle, since a replacement would
not be ready for about five years.
Twenty of the existing 30 ground-based interceptors carry the CE-1
version of the kill vehicle which failed to separate from the rest
of the rocket in a flight test last July, said one of the
The other 10 interceptors are equipped with a newer CE-2 kill
vehicle, which has also suffered several problems and flight test
failures, said the source.
The Missile Defense Agency aims to test fixes developed for the CE-2
kill vehicle this summer, after it wraps up its review of the July flight test
failure, said agency spokesman Rick Lehner. That is months later than initially
[to top of second column]
The agency's investigation into the July failure pinpointed the
cause as a power fluctuation in the kill vehicle's battery, which
caused the flight control computer to reset itself, according to two
of the congressional sources.
"That battery had been in that interceptor for 10 years," said one
of the sources, adding that it remained uncertain what caused the
power fluctuation in the battery.
It was not immediately clear if or when an additional test of the
CE-1 kill vehicle was planned.
John Patterson, a spokesman for Raytheon, said his company was
working closely with Boeing and the Pentagon "to improve this
program's kill vehicle capability."
Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp have already begun early
conceptual work on a simpler and smaller "common kill vehicle." That
program aims to build on the successes of Lockheed's Aegis missile
system, which uses the SM-3 missile built by Raytheon, and the
propulsion system used on the current kill vehicle. The effort also
hopes to reduce costs by achieving more commonality.
Lehner said the approved fiscal 2014 budget included $70 million for
initial work on the common kill vehicle, or a total of about $350
million over the five years through fiscal 2018.
He said he had no information on how the program would be designated
or incorporated in future budget requests, or what future funding
One of the congressional sources said the Pentagon now planned to
transition its current concept work on a common kill vehicle into a
full-fledged acquisition program, after a competition among the
three companies working on the program.
Later the Pentagon also hopes to develop an interceptor that could
carry multiple kill vehicles, the source said.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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