Pentagon cancels contract for billion-dollar missile ‘kill vehicle’

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The Pentagon has canceled a $1 billion-dollar contract with Boeing to create a next-generation weapon meant to destroy incoming missiles after technical problems derailed the project.

The Defense Department will officially shut down the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) program on Thursday “due to technical design problems,” according to Missile Defense Agency spokesman Mark Wright.

The Associated Press first reported on the cancelation.  

Boeing in May 2017 had received a $1 billion contract for RKV program, thought up as a means to shoot down missiles from North Korea or Iran.

But DOD Under Secretary of Defense for research and engineering Michael Griffin “made the decision to terminate the program on August 14,” and the U.S. military will instead hold a competition for a “new, next-generation interceptor,” according to Wright.

“Ending the program was the responsible thing to do,” Griffin said in a statement. “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 in May had ordered Boeing to stop work on the RKV as the Pentagon decided how it would move forward on the program, which had already spent just under $1.2 billion in developmental costs.

“The department ultimately determined the technical design problems were so significant as to be either insurmountable or cost-prohibitive to correct,” Griffin said of that work halt.

Raytheon Co., meanwhile, which makes the interceptor’s warhead, is struggling with design and manufacturing problems that increased costs, Bloomberg reported.

The RKV was meant to replace the current Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), currently fitted on the nation’s supply of Ground-Based Interceptors (GBI) – part of the U.S. missile defense system meant to protect the country from incoming ballistic missiles. Current EKV technology dates back to the 1990s.

The armaments, which have been tested but never used in combat, are launched from an underground silo based on U.S. soil, fly above Earth’s atmosphere, and release a “kill vehicle” that knocks into the incoming threat and destroys it. The action has been described as a bullet hitting another bullet to knock it off course.

The RKV was to go on 20 new GBIs the Pentagon planned to build and then base by 2023 in Fort Greely, Alaska where 44 interceptors are already held. Another four GBIs are in California.

The new competition, which is currently open but has no set timelines or specifications, would likely look to build a weapon to counter the hypersonic missiles now being developed by Russia and China.

Details on the issues that lead to the program’s termination will not be released “due to the classified nature of the program,” according to Wright.


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