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KEI Meets Acceleration Specs, But Funding Lack Slows Land Mobile Capability

By | March 5, 2007

      The Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) ballistic missile defense (BMD) system meets acceleration requirements of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), but funding shortages are slowing development of the KEI land-mobile version.

      Those were among the points during a Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] media briefing and question-and-answer session at the National Press Club today.

      As for the funding shortfall, “We’re trying to get the funding restored fairly quickly to get the mobile [system] back on line,” said Craig Staresinich, Northrop Grumman sector vice president and general manager of the KEI program. Meanwhile, Northrop is pushing ahead with development of the interceptor.

      Other than funding, KEI faces no major problems and glitches, Staresinich indicated.

      He said in an interview before the briefing that acceleration of the interceptor has been improved and meets MDA criteria. Last year, Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering III, MDA director, had expressed concerns that KEI acceleration was inadequate. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, Aug. 21, 2006, page 1.) KEI had to improve its acceleration or face termination, Obering said then.

      But now, “Acceleration is going to be what we expected,” Staresinich said.

      Testing of KEI also is right on track, with its motors set for a test shoot next year, and a test in 2010 or later to see whether KEI can shoot down a simulated enemy missile.

      KEI is a backup to a competing BMD system for shooting down enemy missiles in their boost phase just after rising from a launch pad or silo. That competing system, the Airborne Laser (ABL), involves The Boeing Co. [BA] contributing a highly modified 747 aircraft, Northrop contributing a laser system capable of destroying an enemy missile and frying its electronics, and a weapons control/beam control asset by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT].

      “If ABL fails, we [KEI] become the primary boost-phase” BMD program, Staresinich said.

      ABL will attempt a simulated enemy missile shoot-down earlier, in 2009.

      While MDA has indicated it aims to choose either ABL or KEI for the ability to kill enemy missiles in their boost phase, Staresinich stressed during his briefing and Q&A that KEI also can take down enemy missiles in their ascent and midcourse trajectory phases, too.

      With KEI, if its first shot fails, it’s possible to fire another KEI at the enemy missile, “greatly increasing your chance of success,” he said.

      MDA and the Navy are discussing how KEI might be integrated into a seagoing platform, he noted. That could involve the future CG(X) cruiser.

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