Competition will speed up timeline to field next-gen homeland missile defense interceptor, MDA director says
WASHINGTON — The Missile Defense Agency is aiming to get its first Next-Generation Interceptors to replace the current Ground-Based Interceptors that make up the United States’ homeland ballistic missile defense system by 2028, but the agency’s director anticipates being able to move more quickly.
“If you look at the timeline to get to the first emplacement in 2028,” which is the government’s schedule, “through competition, we know that date is going to come to the left,” Vice Adm. Jon Hill, said at the McAleese and Associates conference May 12.
Because of fielding concerns, Congress went as far as directing the Pentagon build an interim interceptor and field 20 of them by 2026 in its fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act unless the technology is determined not to be feasible and if an interim system can not be fielded at least two years earlier than NGI would be fielded.
Hill was confident with how the NGI’s flight test regime was coming together. MDA is running a separate targets program in parallel and is preparing for a flight test that will happen before the agency makes a low-rate production decision.
One of the problems with the GBI program is that the MDA was experiencing repeated test failures with the interceptors while simultaneously burying them in the ground in silos at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Base, California.
Hill has advocated conducting an intercept flight test before going into production to drive down risk and has previously said that will happen in the 2025 or 2026 time frame.
Additionally, the MDA wants to conduct a salvo test before moving into full production, Hill said.
What has yet to be determined, he added, is when to end the competitive phase of the program.
“We’ve got a really strong strategy,” he said, “and the department’s going to have options as it goes.”
With two teams “you have options,” Hill said. “You want to have a double production line? You want to have a single production line? Where we do the downselect will depend on the state of development.”