Raytheon’s redesigned missile-interceptor warhead -- an improvement on a system intended to defend against a potential North Korean attack -- will be delayed for two years because of technical difficulties, according to the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency.
The new version of the interceptor would be used in the $34-billion missile-defense system that’s intended to detect an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile from an adversary such as North Korea or Iran, dispatching a missile to crash into it and destroy it.
“While the overall design is mature and robust,” the agency “does not want” to schedule a major review of the program until it meets “all of the requirements,” the Missile Defense Agency said in budget documents released Tuesday. The agency is requesting $412.4 million in the next fiscal year for continued research.
The flaws that are delaying the testing and expected deployment weren’t disclosed.
The “Redesigned Kill Vehicle” is intended to greatly improve the reliability of the current warhead. The warheads fielded when the system was declared operational in late 2004 were found to have occasional reliability problems that led to failures in intercepting mock targets in tests.
With the delay, the new version won’t have its first flight test until fiscal 2022 or attempt its first test interception until fiscal 2023. The agency anticipates placing interceptors tipped with the warheads into silos starting in fiscal 2025 to expand the current field of 40 based in California and Alaska.
Raytheon didn’t respond to a request for comment.