HUNTSVILLE, Ala.Lockheed Martin [LMT] said on Aug. 8 it recently validated a prototype communications radio technology for the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI).

The company said it demonstrated the communications system in its version of the NGI can operate through harsh and adversarial environments it could experience during flight. The prototype testing occurred at their facility in Sunnyvale, Calif. earlier this year. Lockheed Martin did not disclose the specific timing when this test took place other than noting in 2022.

Lockheed Martin argued the demonstrated technology is important because it provides in-flight situational awareness, ensuring elements of the interceptor can respond to threats.

“Early demonstrations like this allow us to learn as we go and manage risk. This milestone continues the NGI team’s successful early and often testing cadence of critical technologies within our digital system design as it matures in alignment with our Developmental Evaluation Framework,” Sarah Reeves, vice president and program manager of the Next Generation Interceptor program at Lockheed Martin, said in a statement.

The company also said its NGI program has been using all-digital tools before contract award and will use them through the design and development phase. Its agile development allowed the company’s NGI team to “to rapidly create and prototype the communications capability through a focused approach on development, security, and operations (DevSecOps), reducing risk early,” the company added.

Lockheed Martin said its NGI team is working with Quantic Electronic’s X-Microwave small business unit to incorporate rapid prototyping via delivering hardware platforms for software-defined radio development that takes weeks over months.

“What’s really important about it is we are showing we’re able to close the mission. But the key thing is that we’re able to understand the speed, the vast distances we have to cover in those harsh environments and apply those and ensure that the comm system was going to work to provide that in-flight situational awareness for the warfighter,” Reeves told Defense Daily here at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium on Tuesday.

Reeves said she could not disclose the next tests, but confirmed more are upcoming and the company is somewhat ahead of schedule.

“I can’t tell you what’s next that we’re going to be able to share with you, but there will be more…we’re also working hard to accelerate all of our key milestones. And right now we’re on schedule, a little ahead of schedule, of our PDR as well. And this is just another milestone showing that we’re able to do that maturity on a faster schedule.”

That matches what the other competitor, Northrop Grumman [NOC], told reporters on Tuesday. Northrop Grumman Vice President for the Next-Generation Interceptor Program Lisa Brown said they are ahead of schedule in relation to the preliminary design review (PDR) and are ready for manufacturing (Defense Daily, Aug. 9).

Reeves argued Lockheed Martin is ready for production as well.

She said the company’s missile integration lab in Huntsville, as a development lab, is “one example of how we are setting the tracks for us to do full rate production on NGI,” in addition to large missile assembly buildings in Courtland, Ala.

“So really, we are staged very well for production. We have capacity to grow…. I think we’re on the precipice of more announcements coming.”

Lockheed Martin also noted it expects its first NGI will be delivered in fiscal year 2027.

In 2021, MDA chose teams led by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to perform initial technology development and risk reduction work for NGI, the next interceptor for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system (Defense Daily, March 23, 2021).

MDA is planning to keep the competition open at least through the critical design phase, with both competitors conducting an intercept and salvo test with their designs before the agency decides on a single winner.