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Boeing Missile Defense Test Planned After Failure in January

Boeing Missile Defense Test Planned After Failure in January
Boeing Co. launches a ground-based midcourse defense missile. Source: Boeing

The Pentagon next week plans to test a Boeing Co. missile defense system that failed to intercept its target in a January exercise.

Depending on weather conditions, the Missile Defense Agency will attempt to launch an interceptor between Dec. 14 and Dec. 17 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, against a target missile boosted from Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, in the Western Pacific, Richard Lehner, an MDA spokesman said today in an e-mail.

The test repeats a Jan. 31 exercise that failed to intercept the target because of a classified glitch with a sea based radar, Lehner said. Under a 1998 accord, Boeing is the prime contractor for the system and overseas interceptor boosters, warheads, radars, command and control equipment.

If successful, the approximately $100 million test will mark the first intercept since December 2008 of the system designed to defend the United States from a small number of missiles fired from Iran or North Korea. Prior to the January failure, the program has accomplished eight successes in 13 tests since 1999.

Missile Defense Agency Director Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly told the House Armed Services Committee in April that the interceptor flew as planned “relying on data from the radar, failed to intercept a target.”

O’Reilly said “it was a very valuable test because we collected extensive data on the performance” of the radar, interceptor and warhead.

There are 26 missiles in silos at Fort Greely, Alaska, and four in Vandenberg silos.

Testing, Development

In the 12 years Boeing has had the approximately $18 billion contract, it has overseen testing and development of interceptors made by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia; warheads by Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co.; and command and control software made by Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp.

The contract ends next year. The MDA is completing the work in a program worth as much as $10 billion. It issued Dec. 2 a request for proposals on a 7-year contract for future development, fielding and sustainment of the system.

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