The director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) last week provided an update on the long-delayed Poland Aegis Ashore site and said the Pentagon learned from delays caused by adding building automation to military construction.
During an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on June 22, Vice Adm. Jon Hill said construction on the Aegis Ashore site is still proceeding after delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and “really tough” pandemic restrictions in Europe.
He noted in the past month the Defense Department raised and emplaced the system’s four radar arrays and put the fire control director in the deck house.
“So it always looked like it was a finished site a couple of years ago. It was the issues of all of the automation that we needed to complete. But now we have the radar arrays installed, we have tested out fully the system,” Hill said.
The director also said MDA is now handling some obsolescence issues since the system was containerized and waiting to be erected for several years amid various construction delays. Now, they can open the door for installations and checkout of the Aegis Weapon Systems (AWS) while, in parallel, DoD completes construction, he said.
The Army Corps of Engineers is the lead agency to build the site and is contracting construction to prime contractor the Wood Group.
The Corps of Engineers is overseeing a $182 million contract to build the Aegis Ashore site for the MDA and Navy at the Naval Support Facility Redzikowo facility in Poland to help defend U.S. assets and allies from a limited number of ballistic missile threats. It is the second of two planned European sites, with a sister facility at Naval Support Facility Deveselu, Romania in operation since 2016.
On June 21, MDA detailed installation progress of the Aegis Weapon System at the site. Last March the AWS completed primary ballistic missile defense integrated functional testing and in May the four SPY-1D(V) radar arrays and single fire control system illuminator were lifted into place.
The Poland site was originally expected to be delivered by the end of 2018, but that year, then-MDA director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves said military construction issues pushed it back to 2020 due to bad seasonal weather and worse than expected performance from the construction contractor (Defense Daily, April 13, 2018).
A 2019 Government Accountability Office report found that continuing delays were accumulating and were pushing delivery to mid-2020 (Defense Daily, June 7, 2019).
During the fiscal year 2021 budget cycle, Hill said he expected the site to finally be ready in 2022. At the time he said the contractor was having problems with the “last technical mile” and the whole site was 92 percent completed. That meant what remained included auxiliary controls, heating, power, cooling, and generally things that feed a combat system (Defense Daily, Feb. 2, 2020).
In March 2020, Hill said the Corps was refusing payments to the contractor to induce better performance and in August said the pandemic created additional delays (Defense Daily, Aug. 4, 2020).
Now, Hill says the complexities and engineering involved with working with the military construction process, led by the Corps of Engineers, combined with extra protections for Aegis Ashore Poland over other Aegis construction contributed to the delays.
“I would say one of the big lessons learned that I have during my short amount of time here looking at Poland – was that we put a lot of the building automation into the military construction side and that’s tough and that’s really what has slowed us down there.”
Hill said he has been working very closely with the Army Corps of Engineers.
“They tried a lot of different methods and means by which to get speed and focus on the areas we need in order to do that installation, so we’re in a really good place,” he said.
Building automation entails the computer networking of devices meant to monitor and control various mechanical and security systems in a building.
The site is still scheduled to be delivered no earlier than 2022.