The head of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) this week said the first Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) missiles for homeland-based defense is set to be put in the silos a year earlier than planned.

In 2021, MDA chose teams led by Northrop Grumman

[NOC] and Lockheed Martin [LMT] to conduct initial technology development and risk reduction work for the NGI. The agency plans to keep the NGI competition lasting at least through the critical design review (CDR) phase. (Defense Daily, March 23).

Thanks to the agency working with the companies early with parallel de-risking work, “we’re going to beat the timeline, so I’m fully confident where we are now…it’s kind of a different contraction on how they’re doing it. But they are definitely going to meet first emplacement about a year early, right now,” MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said during a Center for Strategic and International Studies event on May 23.

MDA previously planned to start testing the NGI in 2025-2026 and start placing new interceptors in silos at Fort Greely, Alaska by 2027-2028. The NGI program began as a replacement for the failed Redesigned Kill Vehicle effort, starting with 20 interceptors to be placed in silos already built in Alaska. The cost of the 20 NGIs is expected to be upward of $11 billion.

The NGIs are set to feature both a new booster rocket and new multiple kill vehicles per interceptor. MDA currently fields 44 Ground Based Interceptors (GBIs) at Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Hill admitted there is risk in any program, particularly one this complex, “but we’re in the best position we have been in.”

The MDA director said he thinks the policy decision of whether to downselect to one producer or use both to increase production of NGI will be based on the real world threat-driven citation.

“What we want to do in the acquisition geek world is provide options, so the options we have now, carrying two really qualified contractors, is you could have dual production lines.”

Hill said it would not be unusual to do that, because there are other programs that use either a second source or a dual production line. 

He noted MDA has the flexibility to downselect to a single NGI producer at any time they want, “so if one of the performers doesn’t perform or we see issues, we can drop down and we still have the one to carry through and to go to production. But where we stand right now you have maximum trade space.”

Hill confirmed the current acquisition strategy adds 20 NGIs to the current inventory, “but again when we finalize the production decision, that’s when we’ll decide whether we back fill or add or go with two [production lines].”

Hill noted keeping two competitors through CDR maximizes trade space, allowing MDA to enact either policy decision, to build just 20 new NGIs or also replace the older GBIs.

“So that’s all open for now and we’ll just continue pressing forward so that we keep those options open for the warfighter, for the department, for the nation.”