MDA Orders Targets from Orbital

by: Matthew Potter
March 10, 2011

Category: Business Line, Companies, Contract Additions, Contract Awards, Department of Defense, development program, Events, Federal Budget Process, logistics, MDA, missile defense, Orbital Systems, S&T, Services | RSS 2.0

The United States has been working on missile defense programs for decades. Starting with the boost provided by Ronald Reagan with “Star Wars” in the Eighties and the impetus provided by Iraqi SCUD attacks in Desert Storm the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has led the development and deployment of several different systems. These all require testing to prove their capabilities and to make sure they meet requirements.

Since the basic goal of missile defense programs is to hit and destroy an enemy ballistic missile MDA has required the use of targets that simulate potential threats as well as just provide a basic ballistic trajectory. Orbital Sciences Corp (ORB) has been one of the major providers of these target systems over the last twenty or more years.

Orbital will continue this support to MDA with the award of a contract to provide targets mimicking intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBM) threats. The first year of the contract is worth a little over $200 million and if all options are exercised it could be worth just over a billion.

Orbital will not only provide the targets but also support them with logistics, support equipment and other necessary services. Most missile defense testing takes place either at the Navy’s test range in Hawaii or at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

This contract illustrates why missile defense development is so expensive. The targets are used once and are rather sophisticated as they need to be threat representative. The ranges of the systems involved require testing in remote sites that only ads to the costs of the actual test. The interceptors themselves cost even more and they are also consumed during the test meaning that if there is a failure the test must be repeated which adds schedule and cost to the program.

U.S. Navy photo from DIVIDSHUB flickr photostream.

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