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Aegis, THAAD Interceptor Production Rate To Double In 2010-2015, But Funding Wouldn’t Double

By | April 21, 2008

      The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) will seek approval to roughly double the production rate of new Aegis and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile interceptors in fiscal years 2010 to 2015, but that wouldn’t involve doubling the money spent on interceptor missiles for the two programs, Lt. Gen. Henry "Trey" Obering III, the MDA director, said.

      This also isn’t focused on doubling an existing static number of interceptor missiles, but instead involves a dynamic factor, the rate of building new interceptors. "I’m talking about production — doubling the production rate," Obering explained.

      Speaking in response to questions from journalists on Capitol Hill, Obering indicated that any requisite funding increase would be far less than a doubling of outlays for these interceptors, because of economies of scale.

      For example, Obering noted, roughly doubling the number of interceptors produced wouldn’t require any new investments in their production lines.

      The number of interceptors procured would be roughly double those envisioned in the MDA budget cycle for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2009, which Congress now is reviewing. Precise comparisons are difficult, because it’s not an apples-to-apples situation.

      The request for increasing the rate of interceptor production would be included in the Program Objective Memorandum (POM) for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010, and in the broader five years of the fiscal 2010 Future Years Defense Plan, or FYDP, Obering said.

      He explained that the rough doubling of interceptor production rates might not occur immediately in 2010, but rather would be the net result in the cumulative numbers of interceptor missiles procured in the entire 2010 through 2015 or 2016 FYDP time frame.

      Doubling the interceptors production rate wasn’t a plan originating with MDA, Obering said, but rather with warfighters assessing the potential threat of attack by enemy missiles aimed at the United States or its allies or interests, and then deducing from that how many interceptors might be required to counter the threat.

      Their calculations include information from MDA as to just what a given interceptor can do to kill a certain type of incoming enemy missile.

      The Joint Staff and the Strategic Command would decide whether to endorse this rough doubling plan and sign off on it, Obering said.

      Where would the money be found to fund the doubling of the interceptors production rate?

      Obering said the funds might come from somewhere in the MDA budget, or some might come from military services budgets. That would be for policymakers to consider, he said.

      "Whether we take it out of our portfolio, or whether it’s a combination of service money or our money, or – that’s what we have to go through, this budget process, [so that]we’ll come up with our POM ’10 money," Obering said.

      "If they allocate the money that we would recommend to do this, it would roughly double the number of [interceptor] missiles across that time frame" of 2010 through 2015 or 2016, he said.

      Here’s where it gets tricky. The current MDA approved FYDP plan only runs through fiscal 2013, while the fiscal 2010 plan would cover 2010 to 2015 or 2016.

      Obering listed the number of interceptors currently envisioned in existing MDA plans for the out years. The Aegis program involves the Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] radar and weapons control system and the Raytheon Co. [RTN] Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor missile. Separately, the THAAD program is led by Lockheed.

      "Well, right now, through ’13 – we haven’t yet given anything for ’15 – but through ’13 we had about 133 SM-3s, we had roughly 96 of the THAADs, and four fire units. And the SM-3s – 133 I think was the number – would be based on 18 different ships. Three cruisers and nine destroyers."

      The rough doubling would be based on the 133 SM-3s and the 96 THAAD interceptors envisioned through fiscal 2013, extrapolated out two or three more years from the period ending in 2013 to an ending in 2015 or 2016.

      That difference in five-year long range periods is why one can’t make a precise apples-to-apples comparison between current planned interceptor build rates, and the future production rates that Obering described. Hence his repeated use of the term "roughly" doubled.

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