The Defense Department on Wednesday said it was canceling the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) program, effective Aug. 22, due to technical design problems that are too hard or costly to fix.
The Pentagon said it will instead start a competition for a new next-generation interceptor with a new kill vehicle.
Michael Griffin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, decided to cancel the program on Aug. 14, with Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist agreeing with the decision, the Defense Department said.
That was one week after Griffin told reporters at a conference the department would be coming forward with a new approach, but was unwilling to discuss it further.
Missile Defense Agency (MDA) director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said at the conference the initial pause was the right decision.
“I call it a strategic pause, to make sure we were doing things right.” He said the department was looking at “total range” of options and is trying to minimize the time it takes to deploy an RKV-like capability (Defense Daily, Aug. 8).
A DoD official told Defense Daily the contract was terminated for convenience of the government.
In March, the MDA first announced a two-year delay of the RKV program because the Critical Design Review (CDR) had to be pushed back from 2018 to 2020. This also pushed back deployment of additional GBIs (Defense Daily, March 12).
On Wednesday, MDA elaborated in a statement that last December the agency and Boeing deferred the CDR “due to the failure of certain critical components to meet technical requirements as specified in the development contract.”
Then, in May, Griffin directed a stop-work order to GBI prime contractor Boeing [BA] due to the unspecified technical issue. MDA said this came after months of assessment and testing of suspect components. Griffin also initiated an analysis of alternative courses of action (Defense Daily, May 24).
While Boeing is the prime contractor for GBI overall, Raytheon [RTN] was the contractor for the RKV work.
In June, an annual Government Accountability office (GAO) report said the design issues would increase costs by almost $600 million (Defense Daily, June 6).
GAO also noted the attempted RKV acceleration coming from the DoD Missile Defeat and Defense Enhancements Appropriations Act of 2018 (MDDE) would quicken the program by about a year. However, the contractor reported accumulating negative cost and schedule variances and then MDA found critical components that would not meet performance requirements.
Now after the assessments and analysis of alternatives, “the department ultimately determined the technical design problems were so significant as to be either insurmountable or cost-prohibitive to correct,” DoD said in a statement
MDA said research and testing before the program ended will inform the development of the replacement next-generation interceptor, which will still have a new kill vehicle.
MDA spokesman Mark Wright told Defense Daily the $1.2 billion spent on the RKV program was not wasted because the years of testing, research, papers written, and physical evidence on what does an does not work can all be fed into the new next-generation interceptor with its kill vehicle.
“The decision to terminate the current contract supports the department’s efforts to gain full value from every future taxpayer dollar spent on defense,” Wright said.
“Lessons learned from the RKV development program, including technology advances achieved prior to the termination, will be incorporated into the new interceptor program,” he added.
The DoD statements imply a new interceptor to replace the GBI might be in the works, as well as a new kill vehicle to replace the RKV. This opens the possibility to work on a system that would also defeat Chinese and Russian hypersonic weapons.
In a statement, Boeing said it “accepts the Missile Defense Agency’s decision to terminate work on the Redesigned Kill Vehicle under the current contract and supports the competition for a new, next-generation interceptor that will add value to the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system.”
It added the company will “continue to support the requirements that our customer sets forth for effective missile defense, just as we have for more than two decades.”
MDA said this cancellation “underscores the importance of DoD’s research, development, test and evaluation process that allows for the identification of problems in a test setting before they are deployed to the field.”
“We will take lessons learned from the terminated program and apply them during the new competition,” the agency added.