LONDON, July 13 The U.S. Defense Department
hopes to fund a much more reliable kill vehicle, or warhead, for
the homeland missile defense system run by Boeing Co ,
but final decisions will depend largely on cost, the Pentagon's
top arms buyer said on Sunday.
"It's going at the end of the day to be a question of
affordability," Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall told
reporters on the eve of the Farnborough airshow.
Kendall said decisions had not been finalized on whether to
upgrade the existing kill vehicles, built by Raytheon Co
, or start from scratch with a new design.
Raytheon, Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing have all
expressed interest in bidding for a new kill vehicle.
The U.S. military on June 22 carried out its first
successful test since 2008 of the new kill vehicle that is used
on 10 of 30 ground-based interceptors that have already been
deployed. Twenty other interceptors carry an earlier version,
which failed in an intercept test one year ago.
Kendall said the successful test marked "a very positive
step that will us to move forward." He also praised the
technical expertise of Vice Admiral James Syring, who heads the
Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency.
Kendall said he supported testing the initial common kill
vehicle that is in place on 20 of 30 kill vehicles, as well as
more regular testing of such systems in general to shore up
confidence in the system.
"Right now we're moving in the direction of a much more
reliable kill vehicle, but how far we're going to go in that
direction, ... and the exact form that's going to take, isn't
final yet," he said.
Kendall said a successful June 22 missile defense test was
encouraging and would help shore up the program.
Boeing, prime contractor for the program, said there was a
lot of activity going on about how to move forward with a new
kill vehicle, and the prime contract for managing the
Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, but it was not
clear when a new deal could be signed.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)