This was confirmed at a meeting with journalists, answering questions from the ITAR-TASS correspondent, US Deputy Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning.
He highly appreciated the interaction of Moscow and Washington in the framework of the project for the procurement of RD-180 engines by the American side. “The partnership that we have with Russia on this engine, it seems to me, is extremely important for both our countries ... This is a strong, multi-year partnership ... Deliveries to us (ie the USA) RD-180 are One of many examples of long-term collaboration, ”Fanning emphasized.
According to him, the USA has a stock of RD-180 purchased from Russia, which allows launching heavy Atlas-5 launch vehicles on which this engine is installed in the foreseeable future. It includes the current and next years, as well as "a significant part of 2016".
Since this is a “critical part” of the US space launch program, the US “would like to have a more diverse proposal” and not rely on only one manufacturer in this regard, the Deputy Air Minister said. According to him, the American side “is exploring how this could be achieved, how much it would actually cost to create a production line of this engine in the US, if we received a license” for this. “A business analysis is now being conducted on this issue, and the effectiveness of such investments is being considered,” the specialist noted.
According to him, the US Air Force is closely monitoring the “current situation in bilateral (Russian-American) relations to make sure that we can protect these supplies” of the RD-180 engine in the United States. “As far as I know, no one was in favor” for breaking this collaboration, Fanning said. "I have not seen anything from one side (neither Russia nor the United States), indicating that these supplies are under threat ... I did not see any signs that the relations within which we receive these engines are under threat, ”added the deputy minister.
The fact that the US Air Force intends to explore the prospects for the deployment of the licensed assembly of the RD-180 in the United States, reported in February, a specialized US weekly "Space News". He referred to orders issued by the head of the US Air Force Space Command, General William Shelton.
RD-180 are created by NPO Energomash. In the USA, they adapt to the Russian-American joint venture RD-Amros. As previously reported by the head of RD-Amros, Bill Parsons, the current contract for the supply of RD-180 engines to the US is concluded before the end of 2018. Commenting last October on the possibility of assembling RD-180 under license in the USA, he said that this would lead to an increase in the cost of such products by 50 percent.
However, Shelton said in an interview with Space News that he was skeptical about this kind of assessment. "Of course, there are people who are driven by their own motivation, leading to the emergence of such statements," - said Shelton.
At the same time, he indicated that at this stage he was not at all concerned about the reliability of RD-Amros as an engine supplier. The question is whether the US authorities want to "protect themselves from possible future concerns about the reliability of the supply of RD-180 engines," the general explained. According to him, “this is truly a matter of national security.”