U.S. report rips Boeing, Raytheon quality controls on missile defense

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 08, 2014 9:13 PM

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon's internal watchdog on Monday said it found numerous quality control problems during an investigation of the troubled "kill vehicle", or warhead, built by Raytheon Co for the Boeing Co-led U.S. missile defense system.

In the report, the Pentagon's inspector general said quality standards were not met in 48 specific cases, involving issues that ranged from software testing, supply chain requirements and management of design changes that made the kill vehicle "suspectible to quality assurance failures."

It said the U.S. Missile Defense Agency agreed with its concerns and had already moved to address 44 of the 48 issues as part of a larger drive to improve quality controls.

The report was the first of two to be completed by the inspector general's office on the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) program, which completed the first successful intercept test in June after years of failures.

The 28-page report chronicled the history of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) missile defense system, which was deployed in 2004 before it completed testing to counter what the administration of former President George W. Bush identified as a looming North Korean missile threat.

"A combination of cost constraints and failure-driven program restructures has kept the program in a state of change. Schedule and cost priorities drove a culture of 'use-as-is' leaving the EKV as a manufacturing challenge," the report said.

"With more than 1,800 unique parts, 10,000 pages of work instructions, and 130,000 process steps for the current configuration, EKV repairs and refurbishments are considered by the program to be costly and problematic and make the EKV susceptible to quality assurance failures," it said.

The report said most quality management systems on the weapons system were in compliance, but problems were evident.

The report found 15 major and 25 minor quality problems with Raytheon's handling of the program, including one case where a manufacturing operation had to be stopped because the parts kit - which had been audited - included a screw without threads.

In another case, the specifications for one sensitive part were missing critical requirements banning use of X-ray inspection during commercial flights.

It found six major problems and one minor with Boeing's work, and one major issue with the agency's oversight.

Most of the issues have already been corrected, the report said, but Raytheon is still working on four issues.

Raytheon said it was aware of the report but had no immediate comment. Boeing could not be reached.

The report comes as the Pentagon weighs how to move ahead on its effort to develop a more reliable kill vehicle - a project that shakes up the current industry team. The Pentagon's chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, told reporters in July that final decisions about the successor kill vehicle would depend on cost.

Raytheon, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin Corp have all expressed interest in bidding for a new kill vehicle.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Ken Wills)