The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) selected Raytheon Technologies [RTX], Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Northrop Grumman [NOC] on Nov. 19 to complete accelerated concept designs for a hypersonic missile defense interceptor.

Last February, MDA announced it was changing its plans to develop a counter-hypersonic missile defense program by refocusing efforts from the Regional Glide Phase Weapon System (RGPWS) to a nearer-term initiative called the Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) (Defense Daily, Feb. 4).

At the time, MDA said it aims for this GPI system to be developed in phases to deliver increased defensive capabilities over time, with the initial phase available for fielding in the mid to late-2020s compared to the original RGPWS plan for fielding in the early 2030s.

Last year, MDA first paused the overall hypersonic missile defense prototype effort to split the RGPWS into separate near and longer-term solutions (Defense Daily, Aug. 5, 2020).

Under the new awards, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin each received $21 million while Northrop Grumman won a $19 million contract for the GPI effort, all categorized as other transaction prototype type awards.

“We are pleased to have these contractors working with us to develop design concepts for the GPI. Multiple awards allow us to execute a risk reduction phase to explore industry concepts and maximize the benefits of a competitive environment to demonstrate the most effective and reliable Glide Phase Interceptor for regional hypersonic defense, as soon as possible,” MDA Sea-based Weapon Systems Program Executive Rear Adm. Tom Druggan said in a statement Nov. 19.

The Defense Department said these prototype awards were competitively solicited via the Enhanced Hypersonic Defense Broad Agency Announcement with Glide Phase Interceptor Special Topic.

The MDA said the prototype interceptors are expected to fit into the current Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System.

The agency specified the GPIs are planned to be fired from the Navy’s Aegis missile defense destroyers using standard Vertical Launch System cells as well as be integrated with a modified Baseline 9 Aegis Weapon System “to detect, track, control, and engage hypersonic threats in the glide phase of the missile’s flight.”

Under these awards, each company will “further develop and refine their concept,” the contract announcement said.

Work is expected to be finished by September 2022 with $8 million in research, development, test and evaluation funds obligated to each contractor at the time of award. 

Raytheon said the GPI seeks to intercept hypersonic weapons in the glide phase of flight, after the weapon re-enters Earth’s atmosphere and is maneuvering toward a target. 

The company said the current initial development phase is focusing on reducing technical risk, rapidly developing technology and demonstrating the ability to intercept such a threat.