The Department of Defense is preparing a stop-work order on activity for the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) program after assessing the current plan is “not viable” due to unspecified technical issues.
Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin “has determined that the current plan is not viable and has initiated an analysis of alternative courses of action,” DoD spokeswoman Heather Babb said in response to query. Plans for the stop-work order were first reported by Inside Defense.
The RKV program seeks to improve the reliability of Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) ballistic missile defense system. There are currently 44 GBIs, with 40 based in Ft. Greely, Alaska. In FY 2018 and 2019, Congress appropriated money for MDA to start building silos for 20 more GBIs to be equipped with the RKVs.
Documents in the department’s FY 2020 budget request said the program would be delayed by two years to reschedule the RKV Critical Design Review (CDR) from late 2018 to 2020 (Defense Daily, March 12)
Raytheon [RTN] is the RKV developer, working under Boeing [BA] as the GMD and GBI prime contractor.
At the time, MDA Deputy Director Rear Adm. Jon Hill said the agency could not go through the CDR until it is “satisfied with the robustness of the design” and they believe it is ready to go into production. He said that given specific entrance criteria to move into the CDR, “we do not believe as a government team that we are ready to take that step” (Defense Daily, March 25).
Babb said after the department encountered this “technical issue” with the RKV, the RKV team has been assessing and testing, as needed, suspect components.
“After receiving recent test results, the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering has determined that the current plan is not viable and has initiated an analysis of alternative courses of action,” she added.
To avoid unnecessary expenditures, Griffin directed MDA to issue a stop work order on RKV activity within the Boeing contract “until a viable path forward is identified,” Babb said.
Boeing is the prime contractor managing the GMD program. In January 2018, it won a $6.56 billion contract extending its management through December 2023 that added requirements to execute enhancements like the 20 new GBIs featuring the RKVs (Defense Daily, Jan. 21 2018).
In March this award was partially definitized in a $4.1 billion modification that raised the total value, including options, up to $10.8 billion. The modification noted the 20 new GBIs have a value not to exceed $1.3 billion (Defense Daily, March 25).
Boeing’s industry team includes Raytheon and Northrop Grumman [NOC].
In April, MDA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves told the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee the initial two-year delay does not slow down the acquisition process thanks to the unique acquisition authorities MDA has, including milestone decision authority (Defense Daily, April 4).
Greaves explained he assessed the RKV did not meet strict entrance criteria for the CDR and said they were working actions to get back toward the review and the MDA’s top priority was to deliver the more reliable kill vehicle. Greaves characterized this as a “technical issue” and the two-year delay might be adjusted by a few months either way, although more likely shortened.
“I mean, when we…developed the plan for up to two years, we took a best guess, almost worst case,” Greaves said.