The Pentagon would ax a redesign of the front-end kill vehicle atop its strategic missile interceptor if future sequestration cuts remain law.
Sequestration levels were relaxed in defense spending legislation for fiscal 2014 and 2015. However, should these congressionally mandated reductions slated for 2016 and beyond remain in effect, the Defense Department plans to cancel an effort to correct design problems in its key missile-defense interceptor.
The Defense Department revealed this budgeting contingency plan for the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle in a report released on Tuesday, titled "Estimated Impacts of Sequestration-Level Funding." The department also announced it would eliminate a separate program to acquire an additional land-based, long-range radar in the event that spending reductions required under the 2011 Budget Control Act will kick in, come fiscal 2016.
The Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle is mounted atop the Ground Based Interceptor and is designed to destroy incoming ballistic missiles by kinetic force. The three most recent intercept tests that employed the kinetic technology all ended in failure, leading the Pentagon's head of weapons testing to recommend a redesignearlier this year. The long-range interceptor is a critical element of the broader Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which is considered the principal U.S. defense against a potential strategic missile attack.
The department's Missile Defense Agency announced in March it would seek a redesign of the EKV technology and requested $100 million for the project in fiscal 2015. Total funding for the project from fiscal 2015 through fiscal 2019 was planned to be $738 million. The bulk of project funding was slated to come in fiscal 2016 and 2017.
The Missile Defense Agency last month said it was requesting $80 million for the radar in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. The sensor is expected to monitor the Pacific Ocean, in line with a directive by Congress under the fiscal 2014 Defense Authorization Act to deploy an additional X-band radar that would focus on any threats coming from North Korea.