Pentagon says mulling options to replace Russian rocket motors

WASHINGTON Fri Jun 13, 2014 5:54pm EDT

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall arrives at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington, September 4, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall arrives at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington, September 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department wants to end its dependency on Russian engines to power rockets that launch national security satellites, but is still exploring possible options, a top Pentagon official said on Friday.

Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer, said the Pentagon had taken some initial steps to reduce the risks linked with use of the Russian engines, but had not made any final decisions about how to proceed.

"We are motivated, if we can do it, to remove the dependency that we have. We would ... like to do that," he said. "We haven't figured out exactly how to get there yet."

Several U.S. congressional committees have added funding to the fiscal 2015 military budget to start work on a new U.S. rocket engine and eliminate reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 engines used the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp.

ULA uses the Russian-made engines in one type of rocket, the Atlas, but not in another, the Delta. The company has enough engines on hand to last for two years, officials have said.

Concerns about U.S. reliance on the Russian engines were sparked when a high-ranking Moscow official recently threatened to end sales of the rocket engines for U.S. military use in response to sanctions imposed by the West after Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Aerojet Rocketdyne, a unit of GenCorp, has said it is potentially interested in bidding for the work.

Experts estimate it would cost around $1 billion and five years to develop a new U.S.-built rocket engine.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, editing by G Crosse)

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Comments (3)
GSRyder wrote:
Just send one of the motors to congress’ prime Chinesse knock off shop . They can reverse engineer it, cut the cost enough that all in charge and the politicians get a cut . Don’t even consider a domestic producer, Macdonalds nor Wal Mart have not broken into the rocket science game, yet .

Jun 13, 2014 6:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
MonitorLizard wrote:
Surprising coming from a government so anti-Russia. Well, profits over all else. We sure don’t want to jeopardize the aerospace industry in the US.

Jun 14, 2014 9:59am EDT  --  Report as abuse
njglea wrote:
What? It’s now time to “eliminate reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 engines used by the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp.” No, this is a Wall Street construct by the supposed “masters of the universe”. Is this the best kept secret in America? I wonder how many taxpayers know what OUR money is going for? For this Washington State taxpayers will pay Boeing $8.7 BILLION dollars to keep a few jobs in the state? Time to nationalize these global giants, bring the jobs back to the USA and put at least half the profits back into OUR infrastructure.

Jun 14, 2014 11:10am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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