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Defense Department kills multi-billion dollar missile contract with Boeing

Defense Department kills multi-billion dollar missile contract with Boeing
The Pentagon is scrapping a multi-billion dollar deal with Boeing to replace an outdated missile interceptor, citing years of delays and technical problems and jealously eyeing rivals’ capabilities.

Ending the program was the responsible thing to do,” Michael Griffin, defense undersecretary for research and engineering, said in a statement on Wednesday.

We decided the path we’re going down wouldn’t be fruitful, so we’re not going down that path anymore.

The exact details of the project’s failure would not be released “due to the classified nature of the program,” a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency said. But statements from both Boeing and competitor Raytheon indicate that the Pentagon wants to build a system capable of countering the hypersonic missiles currently in development in China and Russia – as well as the array of once-dormant threats unleashed by the recent scrapping of the INF Treaty.

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The Pentagon is soliciting designs for a “new, next-generation interceptor,” according to a statement, confirming it has bigger things in mind than redesigning the “kill vehicles” in its existing interceptors to address long-range missiles North Korea claims to be developing.

Another clue? The 2020 Pentagon budget proposal was glibly summed up by then-acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan as “China, China, China.” Shanahan’s replacement, Mark Esper, followed up the US’ official withdrawal from the INF Treaty with a tour of the Asia-Pacific region, during which he attempted to convince allies to allow the US to station missiles in their countries to counter China’s “destabilizing behavior.” The Pentagon, for all its sabre-rattling against Iran, has Beijing on the brain.

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Boeing was contracted to upgrade the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which is designed to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles, in May 2017, with funding approved for 20 more silos to be outfitted with the company’s Redesigned Kill Vehicles (RKVs) in response to bellicose posturing from North Korea. With $1.2 billion already poured into the project, the Pentagon placed it on a “strategic pause” in May after two years of delays in the system’s development, as Griffin warned that “the current plan is not viable.”

The decision to axe the Boeing deal is one of the first major contracting decisions undertaken since Esper – a former Raytheon lobbyist – took office last month. While Esper has vowed to recuse himself from any decisions involving his former employer, Raytheon issued a statement in support of the Pentagon’s cancellation of the contract.

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