February 25, 2014 / 8:15 PM / 4 years ago

Pentagon wants to invest in new missile defense interceptor

WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (Reuters) - The Pentagon’s next budget will include funds to overhaul Boeing Co’s ground-based missile defense system and develop a replacement for an interceptor built by Raytheon Co after several recent test failures, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer said Tuesday.

“We’ve got to get to more reliable systems,” Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told a conference sponsored by McAleese and Associations and Credit Suisse.

Asked if the problems were linked to a shortage of funding in recent years, Kendall said he attributed the issues more to decisions to rush deployment of technologies that had not been completely and thoroughly tested.

“Just updating the things we’ve got is probably not going to be adequate. So we’re going to have to go beyond that,” he said, although he gave no details.

Reuters reported earlier this month that the Pentagon planned to ask Congress for $4.5 billion in additional funding for missile defense over the next five years, including $560 million for work on a new interceptor after several failed flight tests.

The White House plans to send its fiscal 2015 budget request to Congress on March 4.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel previewed the Pentagon’s portion of the budget on Monday but did not provide specific details about missile defense.

Missile defense is one of the biggest items in the Pentagon’s annual budget, although Republicans have faulted the Obama administration for scaling back funding in recent years.

Sources familiar with the process say the department now plans to fund an effort to develop a new interceptor, specifically the “kill vehicle,” the part of the ground-based interceptor that hits and destroys an incoming enemy missile on contact.

Missile defense experts say that a big part of the issue with the Raytheon “kill vehicle” stems from the fact that testing and development were not complete when the Bush administration opted to deploy some initial ground-based interceptors.

The kill vehicle is part of the larger ground-based missile defense system managed by Boeing, with a rocket built by Orbital Sciences Corp.

Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s chief weapons tester, earlier this month questioned the robustness of the Raytheon kill vehicle after a series of test failures and said the Pentagon should consider a redesign.

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