How much will GMD Test FTG-06b Cost? More than $300 million? (July 12, 2013)

An article posted on Inside Defense SITREP on Wednesday cites MDA spokesman Richard Lehner as stating that the upcoming FTG-06b test of the Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system was expected to cost between $229 million and $269 million.[1]  However, publicly available information suggests that the cost could be much higher, to the extent that this could be the first test to top the $300 million mark.

FTG-06b is to be the third intercept attempt for the GMD system using a Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) equipped with the new CE-II version of the Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle.  The first two intercept attempts using the CE-II (FTG-06 and FTG-06a) both failed in 2010, as a result of which production and deliveries of new GBIs was suspended and the ten CE-II GBIs already deployed in silos were taken off operational status.   The MDA has stated that production of new GBIs, which is necessary for the deployment of the planned 14 additional GBIs (scheduled to be completed by 2017), will not start until after the CE-II is successfully demonstrated in an intercept test.  That demonstration is the objective of FTG-06b, currently planned for later this year.  A successful non-intercept test (CTV-01) of a CE-II GBI was conducted in January 2013 as part of the process of validating the cause of the FTG-06a failure.

In April 2012 the Government Accountability Office reported (p. 75) the MDA’s estimate of the cost of FTG-06b “as of February 2012” was already $269 million.  Given the time that has elapsed since then (and that the test is still at least a few months away), this cost has certainly increased.

For example, in the same report, the GAO stated that the cost of the non-intercept test CTV-01 was $141million as of February 2012.  By the time the test was actually conducted in January 2013, this figure had increased to about $170 million, an increase of about 21% (see my post of February 5).  If the cost of FTG-06b increased by the same percentage, its cost would be about $327 million.

It is unclear (to me) precisely what the wording “as of February 2012” in the GAO report means.  However, if it means money actually expended by February 2012, then the costs of FTG-06b could go much higher.  This possibility is suggested by the GAO report’s statement (p. 75) that “In addition to the costs of the actual flight tests, the total cost for determining the root cause [of the FTG-06b failure] and developing the design changes has not been fully developed.”   Moreover, MDA did not even begin building the CE-II kill vehicle to be used in FTG-06b until after the January 2013 non-intercept test (and a CE-II kill vehicle reportedly costs about $39 million).

[1] Jason Sherman, “Top Army General Still Confident in GMD System Despite Intercept Test Failure,” Inside Defense SITREP, July 10, 2013.

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