Concurrent Development and Production of MK-12A Reentry Vehicle

PSAD-79-2: Published: Oct 23, 1978. Publicly Released: Oct 23, 1978.

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A review of the development test and evaluation program for the MK-12A reentry vehicle system intended for deployment on Minuteman 111 missiles indicated that the MK-12A was not subjected to the Defense Systems Acquisition Council purview although significant design changes were required and estimated program costs were substantial. The decision to produce MK-12A systems for operational deployment was made in December 1976 before initiation of the deployment flight test program when only limited component and system testing had been completed. MK-12A subassemblies are now being fabricated for delivery in 1979 and for subsequent operational deployment even though important development tests will not be completed until late 1978 and early 1979. Air Force officials said that the program involved low technical risks and that concurrent development and production was justified because it allowed a less disruptive transition from development to production. Technical risks were significant at the time of the production decision, and further tests are needed to fully evaluate the risks. The technical risks arise from a combination of the new miniaturized arming and fuzing system, high-reliability requirements, and the extreme stress that a reentry vehicle is subjected to during its flight. The Secretary of Defense should reassess the actions taken to date before permitting the Air Force to award the follow-on production contract scheduled for December 1978.

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