WASHINGTON — Construction issues have caused delays in establishing operational capability of the the Aegis Ashore missile defense site in Poland for well over two years, and that delay has now extended by another two years, according to Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s director.
But Hill said he will soon know a path forward that could potentially make up for lost time.
The Aegis Ashore site in Poland was originally expected to be in operation by August 2018, but Defense News reported at the time that a delay would push that date to calendar year 2020 due to problems with the contractor hired in Poland to build the site.
The schedule slipped further due to poor weather and problems with ramping up manpower and other resources to get the job done, then-MDA Director Gen. Samuel Greaves said at the time.
The fiscal 2021 budget request released Feb. 10 revealed the agency would need an extra $96 million in funding to maintain the Aegis Ashore weapon system, which is already on site in protective, temperature-controlled containers.
Hill told reporters during a briefing Feb. 10 that the current constructor has had problems in “that last tactical mile” and the project has been sitting nearly complete, but not quite there.
“What is not complete is what we really need, which is auxiliary controls, heating, power and cooling, the things that feed a combat system,” Hill said, “so that is where that design and engineering that is inside the construction contract has [slowed] down and where the contractor is having problems.”
The MDA did an independent assessment in December, Hill said, sending a team to Poland to look at the problems, and the agency engaged with qualified contractors to garner the reality of the situation on the ground. The Army Corps of Engineers holds a fixed-price contract with the contractors in Poland, so the MDA is working with them to go over contract options, Hill added.
“That is what we are doing now,” he said, noting that by the end of the month the agency and the Corps of Engineers will have figured out a plan to proceed, “which will involve, I believe, some contract modifications to the construction side to get us on track so that we can accelerate beyond quicker than the ’22 [date] that we’ve estimated.”
Hill noted that the schedule is currently a “very conservative estimate” and is “the worst-case” scenario.
Poland’s Aegis Ashore site is part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach to regional missile defense against threats from Iran and includes Aegis radar-capable ships based out of Rota, Spain, an AN/TPY-2 radar in Turkey, and another Aegis Ashore site in Romania that are both operational. The TPY-2 radar was stood up in Turkey in 2011 and the Romanian Aegis Ashore site in 2016.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.