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LA Times: Missile Interceptors Made by Raytheon Unreliable in Tests

A Raytheon Co. plant entrance  in Andover.
A Raytheon Co. plant entrance in Andover.AP

Waltham-based defense contractor Raytheon Co. is at the heart of an investigative report from the LA Times, which suggests the nation’s $40 billion Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system is unreliable.

The system is meant to intercept incoming warheads from a possible nuclear attack, with 30 interceptors located in California and Alaska. Raytheon manufactures the system’s “kill vehicles,” which are supposed to take care of the intercepting. The problem? Since becoming operational in 2004, the system has passed just three out of eight tests of its intercepting ability. It has failed its last three. (It passed five of eight tests before it was deployed.)

The failures themselves—and that officials were concerned—had been previously known. But the Times dives deep to put some context around those failures. Sources told the paper that the system was rushed into the field during the first term of the Bush administration, and that it would take several kill vehicles to reliably take out one enemy missile—meaning that in the event of a multi-missile attack on the US, the system could be overwhelmed in its defense attempts. The article also explores why the system might be failing the tests, and why finding a fix is not easy.

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While Raytheon manufactures the kill vehicles, Boeing is responsible for managing the entire system. Raytheon directed requests from the Times for comment to Boeing. Boeing told the Times that it “remains confident in the system’s ability to defeat potential adversaries.”

Raytheon has offices across the world but keeps its headquarters in Massachusetts, where it was founded. It recorded revenues greater than $23 billion in 2013.

We’ve reached out to Raytheon and will update this article if the company responds.

Read the full LA Times report here.

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