This week: News updates and a new report
- Defense radar to be assembled in Corpus Christi
- Missile Defense Agency Will Choose Kinetic Interceptor This Year
- Report of the Defense Science Board/Air Force Scientific Advisory Board Joint Task Force on Acquisition of National Security Space Programs
1. Defense radar to be assembled in Corpus Christi 25-story structure will search for missiles in Alaska in 2005 By Tara Copp Scripps Howard News Service Corpus Christi Caller-Times September 11, 2003
WASHINGTON – When a 25-story metallic globe starts bobbing off Corpus Christi’s coastline in 2005, en route to Alaska, it will mark another important milestone in the nation’s missile defense system.
The Navy’s Sea-Based X-Band (SBX) Radar is a floating, self-propelled system that will scan for missiles from its base in Alaska. It is just one part of the overall national missile defense system that President Bush has pledged to have operational by 2005.
SBX, named for the type of radar bandwidth it uses, “helps discriminate a warhead from decoys that might be traveling along with a warhead on a long-range ballistic missile aimed at the United States,” said Missile Defense Agency spokesman Rick Lehner.
SBX would work with ground- and sea-based Aegis missiles that are also under development.
390 feet long
When the SBX undergoes work at Kiewit Offshore Services on the north shore of Corpus Christi Bay in 2005, it will be hard to miss: The 25-story structure is 390 feet long, 250 feet high, and weighs 50,000 tons. But its hardest-to-miss trait is the radar itself, which looks like Disney’s Epcot Center sphere.
The radar is not being built in Corpus Christi, but all the pieces will be put together there before it begins operations in the nation’s missile defense program.
“The infrastructure is here to build them. The expertise is here to build them. What they do build here is oil platforms, and they do it very well,” said Maj. Rob Koon, a Navy spokesman.
Several cities across the United States had competed to house SBX, but also voiced significant environmental concerns about the radar’s emissions and size. The platform is not scheduled to begin operations until it leaves Corpus Christi on its way to Alaska, Lehner said.
$747 million platform
The platform arrived at the Amfels shipyard in Brownsville in June. Boeing is the primary contractor for the $747 million platform system, and Raytheon Corp. is building the globe-shaped radar, which will be incorporated with the platform in Corpus Christi in 2005.
A spokesman for Kiewit said he could not comment on any part of his company’s role in the SBX assembly. A call to Boeing Co. was also not returned.
The contract for platform modifications at Amfels is worth between $80 million and $100 million, Lehner said.
“We took this oil rig built in Norway, and towed it to Brownsville. We have to modify it with a host of things, like crews’ quarters, the engines. It has small maneuvering motors that can actually propel it,” Lehner said.
Radar on top of rig
After the radar system is mounted on top of the rig, the whole system will begin a journey away from Texas’ coast, around South America, and onto its final destination in Adak, Alaska, Lehner said.
“Hopefully, it will be operational for the missile defense program by the end of 2005,” Lehner said.
Scripps Howard correspondent Tara Copp can be reached at email@example.com
2. Missile Defense Agency Will Choose Kinetic Interceptor This Year
To advance its boost-phase missile defense efforts, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency intends to pick the winning design for its kinetic energy interceptor by the end of this year, Jane’s Defense Weekly reported this week (see GSN, Aug. 21).
Boeing and Lockheed Martin have joined forces to compete for the contract and are facing off against a joint Northrop Grumman and Raytheon team.
Simultaneously, agency officials have decided to slow the pace of the interceptor’s development by about two years to allow the technology to mature, according to Jane’s. Once the winning team is selected, it will be asked to provide a prototype, with some operational capability, by 2011.
Program officials said that depending on an enemy missile’s range, its boost phase can last for 180 to 300 seconds. To reach the missile in this time, the interceptor will need to be “big,” according to Terry Little, the agency ’ s KEI program director.
It will probably be “much more like a small (ICBM) than a traditional surface-to-air missile,” he added (Michael Sirak, Jane’s Defense Weekly, Sept. 10).
3. Report of the Defense Science Board/Air Force Scientific Advisory Board Joint Task Force on Acquisition of National Security Space Programs, May 2003, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Washington, D.C. 20301-3140
This report is a joint product of the Defense Science Board (DSB) and Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (AFSAB). The DSB is a Federal Advisory Committee established to provide independent advice to the Secretary of Defense. The AFSAB is a Federal Advisory Committee which provides a link between the Air Force and the nation’s scientific community. Statements, opinions, conclusions, and recommendations in this report do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Air Force or the Department of Defense.
pp. 6-7: 1.3.1 SPACE-BASED INFRARED SYSTEM (SBIRS) HIGH
Findings. SBIRS High has been a troubled program that could be considered a case study for how not to execute a space program. The program has been restructured and recertified and the task force assessment is that the corrective actions appear positive. However, the changes in the program are enormous and close monitoring of these actions will be necessary.
Recommendations. The task force recommends proceeding with the restructured program. However, the program implementation to date has been during an era of questionable program practices. The task force recommends a review of past engineering and test activities to assure acceptable quality of the product. It is critically important that a competent and complete test program be implemented for SBIRS High. This may necessitate additional testing to mitigate omissions and embedded problems that would otherwise manifest themselves as mission critical failures on orbit. While we were impressed with the current program management, additional experienced managers are required to execute the program successfully.
p.19: New users bring new requirements. Those trying to initiate a new program applaud this because new users with new requirements constitute an expanded base of support. However, this support comes at the cost of reduced program manager flexibility because of the increased number of key performance parameters (KPPs) needed to satisfy and maintain the support of the expanded constituency. For too many programs the net result has been dramatically increased requirements with ineffective systems engineering and/or financial assessment of their impact. This has repeatedly overwhelmed the existing requirements management process. One example of the resulting impact is that the SBIRS High program had an excessive number of KPPs: 18. Experience suggests more than 4 to 5 KPPs will overly constrain program execution; the orthogonal KPPs prevent the program manager from making tradeoffs that would assure an execution of a program with prudent risk.
p. 26: The SBIRS software test program was excessively optimistic and ultimately was a major contributor to the required program restructuring.
8.1 SBIRS High Findings and Observations. SBIRS High has been a troubled program. It could be considered a case study for how not to execute a space program. The following list of program characteristics (prior to program reconstruction) illustrates this observation: • Cost-driven, • Underfunded, • Optimistic contractor proposal, • Uncontrolled requirements, • Limited program manager authority and capability, • Funding instability (four replans), • Program manager instability (four government and four industry program managers), and • Failure to implement “best practices.”
SBIRS High is a product of the 1990s acquisition environment. Inadequate funding was justified by a flawed implementation plan dominated by optimistic technical and management approaches. Inherently governmental functions, such as requirements management, were given over to the contractor.
In short, SBIRS High illustrates that while government and industry understand how to manage challenging space programs, they abandoned fundamentals and replaced them with unproven approaches that promised significant savings. In so doing, they accepted unjustified risk. When the risk was ultimately recognized as excessive and the unproven approaches were seen to lack credibility, it became clear that the resulting program was unexecutable. A major restructuring followed. It is well-known that correcting problems during the critical design and qualification-testing phase of a program is enormously costly and more risky than properly structuring a program in the beginning. While the task force believes that the SBIRS High corrective actions appear positive, we also recognize that (1) many program decisions were made during a time in which a highly flawed implementation plan was being implemented and (2) the degree of corrective action is very large. It will take time to validate that the corrective actions are sufficient, so risk remains.
The task force was impressed with the current program management; however, there is a concern that the program lacks experienced personnel and that the “ Basket SPO” approach dilutes attention to the critical issue of SBIRS High restructuring and implementation of the revised program. Under the “Basket SPO” concept, the program management is responsible not only for SBIRS High but also the associated legacy program, the ground segment, and SBIRS Low. While this concept may be sound for a stable set of programs, it is viewed as confounding the correction of a troubled program and the start of a new program.
Recommendations. The task force recommends proceeding cautiously with the restructured program. Because the program, prior to restructuring, was implemented during an era of questionable program practices, the task force recommends a review of past engineering and test activities to assess their quality. This may necessitate additional testing to mitigate omissions and embedded problems that would otherwise manifest themselves as mission critical failures on orbit. Finally, the task force recommends adding experienced managers to the SBIRS program.
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