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Pentagon Asks Firms to Refine Designs for New Interceptor Kill Vehicle

A Ground-based Interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in a January flight test. The Pentagon has asked defense firms to fine-tune their competing designs for a new standardized kill vehicle for use on both the GBI missile and versions of the Standard Missile 3 interceptor (Missile Defense Agency photo).
 
A Ground-based Interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in a January flight test. The Pentagon has asked defense firms to fine-tune their competing designs for a new standardized kill vehicle for use on both the GBI missile and versions of the Standard Missile 3 interceptor (Missile Defense Agency photo).

The Pentagon has invited three contractors to fine-tune their competing designs for a new kill vehicle for the nation's homeland missile-defense system.

Late last month, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon each received a sole-source contract from the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency to develop their designs for a Common Kill Vehicle and associated technology. The components would be used in Ground-based Interceptors scheduled for delivery in fiscal 2018, Inside Defense reported on Tuesday, citing an MDA announcement

The intention is to create a front end that can be fitted to both the GBI missile, which is a part of the country's Ground-based Midcourse Defense apparatus, and to versions of the Standard Missile 3 interceptor planned for fielding at European sites in the coming years. The Pentagon contends that having the Common Kill Vehicle will enable it to bring missile-defense costs down, while still acquiring the capabilities needed to respond to ballistic-missile threats emanating from North Korea and Iran.

The Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle currently in use on GBI missiles has had a troubled testing track record with the three most recent trial intercepts all ending in failure.

The standardized kill vehicle effort comes out of the canceled Standard Missile 3 Block 2B program. The theoretical Block 2B missile was intended to have the ability to neutralize some intercontinental-ballistic missiles. However, the program was axed earlier this year amid questions about the interceptor's utility and a desire to free up funds to purchase 14 additional GBI missiles for fielding in Alaska.

"This restructure is not a new start, but a focus on the kill vehicle technology tasks of the SM-3 2B missile," MDA spokesman Rick Lehner said in a statement to Inside Defense.

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