WASHINGTON, March 13 The Pentagon is going to
take a fresh look at U.S. reliance on Russian-built engines to
power American rockets that launch large U.S. government
satellites into orbit, in light of the Ukraine crisis, Defense
Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress on Thursday.
U.S. dependence on Russian engines has long been a concern
of U.S. lawmakers, but those worries were heightened by mounting
tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia's seizure of
Crimea, an autonomous region in Ukraine.
Asked at a congressional hearing about whether it was time
for the United States to develop additional capabilities for
making powerful rocket engines given the situation in Ukraine,
Hagel said: "You're obviously referring to the relationship we
have with the Russians on the rocket motors."
"I think this is going to engage us in a review of that
issue. I don't think there's any question about that," Hagel
Earlier this week, U.S. Air Force Undersecretary Eric
Fanning said the Air Force had enough of the engines to support
launches of military and intelligence satellites well into 2016.
The RD 180 rocket engines, which have been built exclusively
by Russia's NPO Energomash since 2002, are used by United Launch
Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing
to power the venture's Atlas V rockets.
Fanning said the U.S. was exploring ways to ensure a varied
supply of the engines, including the possibility of domestic
production if the Russian firm agreed to sell a license for the
He also said the search for an alternate source of the
engines predated the ongoing violence in Ukraine, but emphasized
that the U.S. partnership with Russia and the engine maker
remained solid despite the crisis.