The U.S. Defense Department on Thursday indicated it would push back by up to nine months a call to defense contractors for plans to develop a highly sophisticated Standard Missile 3 interceptor that is envisioned as having the ability to destroy ICBMs, Inside Defense reported.
The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, which oversees the development and acquisition of antimissile technology for much of the U.S. military, said it would formally seek contractor proposals for the SM-3 Block 2B interceptor between April and June 2014. The agency had earlier intended to release an initial call for bids at the conclusion of the current fiscal 2013, which ends on Sept. 30 of next year.
A contract deal is now expected to be made public in the second quarter of fiscal 2015 rather than the final months of the next fiscal year, according to the notification posted in Federal Business Opportunities.
The SM-3 Block 2B is a key element of the Obama administration's plan for the staged fielding of increasingly capable sea- and land-based SM-3 interceptors around Europe. The interceptor is intended to be capable of destroying medium- and intermediate range ballistic missiles as well as first-generation ICBMs in the early stages of flight.
The Missile Defense Agency no longer intends to hold a "full and open competition" for the Block 2B interceptor development contract. Rather, it now plans on conducting "a limited competition among Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon for the product development and initial production phase," according to the agency notice. The three defense giants received contracts in April 2011 to assist the agency in determining the scope and timeline for the interceptor project.
Meanwhile, implementation of the first phase of the Obama administration's plan for European ballistic missile defense is proceeding according to plan, with efforts under way in Spain to prepare the infrastructure necessary to host four U.S. Aegis antimissile system-equipped destroyers, Defense News reported on Monday.
The first U.S. missile destroyers equipped with SM-3 Block 1A interceptors are to be home ported at the Spanish naval base in Rota beginning in the next budget year with the final two planned for deployment in fiscal 2015.
U.S. naval operations head Adm. Jonathan Greenert told the defense publication on Oct. 31 he was pleased with the progress of readiness efforts at Rota, which he recently visited. A pier capable of supporting two destroyers at once is being readied, but additional computer infrastructure and electrical systems are required to handle all four of the U.S. warships.
Spain agreed to host the destroyers as part of its contribution to NATO's efforts to establish an alliance-wide missile shield over Europe aimed at defeating possible Iranian missile strikes. The U.S. plan to through 2020 field SM-3 interceptors around the continent forms the backbone of the Western military alliance's antimissile plans. However, other NATO member states are expected to augment their own missile defense capabilities and to connect them to an evolving command-and-control framework.
Greenert noted that NATO countries can provide critical protective air-defense support to U.S. Aegis-equipped warships, which are not ideally suited to the role. "Many of the allies that have that anti-air warfare capability are interested in seeing what can be done. Each has their own boxes and political dynamics. But there is a renewed interest in seeing how can we help you with ballistic missile defense."
"If they have the capability, they're saying, 'Maybe we can do that,'" the admiral said. "So there's an interest in finding what that would mean. What would those (concepts of operations) be? What would the command-and-control structure be?"
Elsewhere, the Missile Defense Agency is examining why a launched Block 1A interceptor was unsuccessful in eliminating a short-range high-altitude dummy missile during last month's elaborate multisystem live intercept trial over the Pacific, Aviation Week reported on Monday.
Though that interception was unsuccessful, the other four interception attempts in the trial were all successful in eliminating their targets over a 20-minute period. The large-scale test employed Patriot Advanced Capability 3 interceptors, Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense systems, and Aegis-enabled SM-3 Block 1A and 2A missiles.
The U.S. Defense Department on Thursday indicated it would push back by up to nine months a call to defense contractors for plans to develop a highly sophisticated Standard Missile 3 interceptor that is envisioned as having the ability to to destroy ICBMs, Inside Defense reported.