By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Boeing Co said on Friday it would test additional improvements to its ground-based U.S. missile defense system later this year during a first test of the system's ability to intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency on Thursday conducted a successful non-intercept test aimed at demonstrating the effectiveness of a redesigned "kill vehicle," or warhead, built by Raytheon Co.
Missile Defense Agency Director James Syring told the Center for International and Strategic Studies last week that the ICBM intercept test, which will include countermeasures, would take place before the end of the year as part of a broad effort to improve the Ground-Base Midcourse Defense System, or GMD.
The United States has been developing the $41 billion weapons system to defeat the long-ranges and high velocities of an ICBM like those being developed by North Korea and Iran. It previously tested and intercepted dummy missiles that simulated short and medium-range ballistic missiles.
The MDA is racing to improve the system after it failed to hit a dummy missile in five of eight tests conducted after the Bush administration rushed to deploy the system in 2004 to counter growing threats by North Korea.
Boeing Vice President Norm Tew said the ICBM intercept test would include new technologies infused into the booster used to launch the ground-based interceptors, and other measures aimed at improving the reliability of the exoatmospheric kill vehicle (EKV), or warhead, designed by Raytheon Co.
Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin Corp are developing a redesigned kill vehicle for the interceptors, due to have its first flight test in 2018.
Tew said he could not comment about whether the U.S. military was considering adding 10 ground-based interceptors to the three now in place at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The U.S. military is already adding 14 interceptors to the 27 interceptors in place at a second site in Alaska.
"There are a lot of things being considered," Tew said, noting that the Obama administration was evaluating possible missile defense sites in the northeastern United States.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal)