Pentagon axes troubled US$1 bil contract for missile defence

The destroyer Hudner fires an SM-2 missile during a live-fire exercise off the coast of Virginia. (US Navy pic)

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon announced Wednesday that it is terminating a troubled billion-dollar program to develop a ballistic missile interceptor, citing design problems.

The Defence Department said it would seek bids for a new version of the weapons system called the Redesigned Kill Vehicle, or RKV. The program was being led by Boeing.

“Ending the program was the responsible thing to do,” said Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defence for research and engineering.

“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,” Griffin added.

The ground-based system was supposed to work by firing off a “kill vehicle” from an interceptor missile to defend the US against long-range ballistic missile attacks.

But the program suffered years of setbacks.

In December 2018, the Pentagon’s Missile Defence Agency concluded that “certain critical components” failed to meet technical requirements, said a Defence Department spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Carver.

Five months later, Griffin decided to suspend the contract and consider alternatives.

The Pentagon finally concluded that the design problems were either insurmountable or too costly to fix, said Carver.

“Research and testing accomplished prior to the program’s end will inform development of the next-generation interceptor, which will include a new kill vehicle,” he added.