Pentagon wants additional $4.5 bln to fix failed missile defense interceptors
The move – disclosed by Riki Ellison of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance and two unnamed congressional sources – comes partly in response to failed tests that have shown the interceptors built by Raytheon Co. to be less than reliable.
About $560 million of the requested funds would be put towards building a brand new interceptor, a process that could take up to five years. Until that is ready, the Pentagon would use other parts of the incoming cash to fix its current crop of “kill vehicles” – or the interceptors used in the ground-based missile defense system to strike and destroy enemy missiles in midair.
Nearly $1 billion, meanwhile, would be used to purchase and install a new homeland defense radar in Alaska.
Although some lawmakers have called for cuts to the massive Pentagon budget, Reuters reported this missile defense request is expected to draw support from both Democrats and Republicans concerned over missile development programs in North Korea and Iran.
Since the White House plans to purchase another 14 ground-based interceptors, however, Ellision said some congressional members may hesitate to green-light the funding request considering they would be authorizing the purchase of currently faulty kill vehicles, and a replacement would not be available for at least five years.
All 30 of the United States’ ground-based interceptors carry either one or the other of Raytheon’s two kill vehicles – 20 house the CE-1, while the other 10 carry the CE-2. Both interceptors have suffered test failures. While fixes are in the works, Raytheon, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin continue to push forward with a brand new interceptor that’s more effective and cheaper to operate.
The Pentagon's request for additional funding comes after China successfully tested a hypersonic missile delivery vehicle last month. This new high-speed vehicle is capable of penetrating the current US defense shield and deliver a nuclear warhead.
Earlier this week, the United States also continued to bolster its anti-missile system in Europe when it deployed a ballistic missile defense destroyer to Spain. As RT reported, another three are expected to arrive in Europe over the next two years, a presence that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said is intended to protect allies from possible Iranian missile strikes.
The move sparked condemnation from Russia, whose top disarmament official said continued action by the US to expand its missile defense program in Europe could force it to withdraw from the new START nuclear treaty.
"We are concerned that the US is continuing to build up missile defense capability without considering the interests and concerns of Russia,” said Mikhail Ulyanov of the Russian Foreign Ministry. “Such a policy can undermine strategic stability and lead to a situation where Russia will be forced to exercise [its] right of withdrawal from the [START] treaty.”