Next-generation missile defense interceptor designs pass key review ahead of schedule

WASHINGTON – Two next-generation interceptor designs under development in a competition to replace ground-based interceptors in America’s intercontinental ballistic missile defense system have both passed key exams.

The Pentagon has selected Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to compete in a competition to provide a Next Generation Interceptor, or NGI, to replace current interceptors in the ground at Fort Greeley, Alaska, and Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. , which make up the Ground-Based Mid-Term Defense System, or GMD. GMD is designed to defend the continental United States against possible attacks from North Korea and Iran.

Northrop Grumman and teammate Raytheon Technologies announced the completion of their system requirements review in a Dec. 20 statement. Lockheed Martin completed its SRR in October. The Missile Defense Agency approved the SRRs ahead of schedule.

The conclusion of the review means that designs can now move to an initial system design phase and allows for further risk reduction testing and “critical component qualification activities,” said a joint statement from Northrop and Raytheon.

“This achievement comes after Northrop and Raytheon demonstrated their NGI Common Software Factory, which enables rapid development, integration and delivery in a DevSecOps environment,” the statement added.

The team also employs “high-fidelity model-based systems engineering and hardware manufacturing in customer-certified facilities” and invests their own internal dollars to reduce risk in hardware development and testing “to ensure the rapid deployment of NGI. the nation demands it, ”the statement said.

“I am proud that the Lockheed Martin team were able to complete the NGI System Requirements Review six months after the initial development and demonstration contract was awarded, when it normally takes six months to a year to complete. get there, ”Sarah Reeves, NGI program vice president at Lockheed Martin, said in a statement.

“On NGI, we were born digital, and digital technology is built into the foundation of our program. From our SRR, where we presented our own software factory to the customer, we remain focused on reducing technological risks and demonstrating our design using the latest digital technologies to learn, adapt and refine this critical capability in real time ”, she declared. added.

The contract the teams received in March 2021 to design NGIs has an estimated maximum value of $ 1.6 billion through fiscal 2022 and will integrate both designs into the technology development and risk reduction phase of the project. program.

The Pentagon announced in August 2019 its intention to build a new NGI after the Redesigned Kill Vehicle program – which would enhance the GBI with the ability to fight more complex threats more reliably – was brutally killed. RKV faced insurmountable technical problems, which resulted in delays in schedules and increased costs.

Raytheon was the developer of the canceled RKV program as a subcontractor to Boeing.

About eight months later, MDA issued a request for proposals for its NGI with the aim of narrowing the selection to two companies who would then compete for the right to build the interceptor.

Northrop and Raytheon have announced their intention to compete as a team in May 2020, and Lockheed has announced that it will partner with Aerojet Rocketdyne to compete in October 2020. Lockheed has announced its intention to purchase Aerojet Rocketdyne in December 2020.

While MDA plans to test NGI in the mid-2020s and place it in the ground around 2027 or 2028, the agency director believes it could happen sooner.

Vice Admiral Jon Hill said earlier this year that thanks to competition and investment from industry, “we know the date is going to come left.”

Earlier this year, an independent cost estimate from the Defense Ministry’s Program and Cost Assessment Office determined that the total cost to develop the NGI could be around $ 13 billion, while the supply as well as operation and sustainment could reach just over $ 2 billion. .

Replacing GBIs in the GMD system is a top US missile defense priority. Congress, in its recent National Defense Authorization Act FY22, called for increased oversight of the program and demanded more transparency regarding MDA flight and ground testing.

Part of this arrangement requires, as part of MDA’s fiscal year 23 budget request, a report on the funding profile required for the NGI program which covers costs until NGI is deemed fully operational.

Jen Judson is the Ground War Reporter for Defense News. She covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a journalist for Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club’s Best Analytical Reporting Award in 2014 and was named Best Young Defense Journalist by the Defense Media Awards in 2018.

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