Fort Greely may get 14 missiles at $75 million apiece, though they may soon be obsolete
June 25, 2014
by Dermot Cole
FAIRBANKS — While the successful missile test over the Pacific Sunday increases the likelihood for a $1 billion addition of 14 missiles at Fort Greely by 2017, the Missile Defense Agency hopes to start flight tests in 2018 of a “kill vehicle” that would replace those it plans to buy for the new missiles.
The question of whether it is worth spending $75 million per missile on a kill vehicle — a device with sensors and an on-board computer intended to hone in on a target high above the Earth — that the Pentagon says should be replaced by 2020 continues to divide supporters and critics of the missile defense system.
The current plan before Congress is to spend $99.5 million in the next fiscal year to start designing the replacement. A new version would be more reliable, more available and easier to maintain, test, produce and upgrade, the agency said in its budget overview in February.
The Obama administration announced plans in 2013 to add 14 missiles at Fort Greely, largely in response to missile-rattling by North Korea, but the expansion plan needed a successful intercept to get the go-ahead. The Alaska congressional delegation contends that the countdown for the 14 new missiles should be underway.
Critics say it is a waste to buy more units of a kill vehicle that has already been deemed deficient and not as reliable as it ought to be. The system has had a poor record so far, mainly caused by the political pressure to do something fast, they say. The weekend test was the first successful intercept in nearly six years.
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