Defense contractor Raytheon Co. expects it soon will resume production of an updated warhead, or "kill vehicle,"' used for U.S. homeland missile defense after the system successfully intercepted a dummy target over the Pacific this weekend.
"There are no other hurdles that we're aware of, so we expect that we will go into production shortly,"' Wes Kremer, the firm's vice president of air and missile defense systems told reporters on a teleconference call Monday.
Raytheon, with global headquarters in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, is a subcontractor to Boeing Co. on the ground-based midcourse defense system. The system protects the United States against long-range ballistic missiles and is projected to cost a total of $41 billion.
In Sunday's test, the system hit a simulated enemy missile for the first time since 2008.
The test validated the revamped design of the kill vehicle, which ideally separates from the ground-based interceptor and hits an incoming warhead, Kremer said.
He acknowledged the Missile Defense Agency had not officially notified Raytheon about resuming production.
Missed targets previously
The Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle Capability Enhancement II, EKV CE-II, had failed to hit its target in two previous flight tests in 2010. Nonetheless, it’s carried by 10 of the 30 U.S. interceptors already in silos in Alaska and California.
An earlier version, the CE-I, is on the remaining 20 interceptors. It failed its last intercept test in July 2013, but the government says it expects to correct the related problem by year's end.
Reuters reported Friday that the Pentagon is restructuring its $3.48 billion contract with Boeing for management of the missile defense system to emphasize maintenance and reliability.
Kremer confirmed the report but declined comment on negotiations between the government and Boeing, or the possible timing of a new agreement.
He said the kill vehicles in use now were designed to be autonomous, but technology advances would allow the new warhead to be more tightly integrated into the overall U.S. missile defense system.