The director of the Missile Defense Agency said the competition between two teams working on the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) is expected to accelerate the fielding of the new missile defense interceptor.

“Once we come out of the risk reduction there and have confidence in that design, then we move to a full up development and it’s actually moving pretty quickly. If you look at the timeline to get to first emplacement in ‘28…through competition, we know that that date’s going to come to the left,” Vice Adm. Jon Hill said at the annual McAleese Defense Programs Conference May 12.

In March, MDA selected teams led by Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Northrop Grumman [NOC] for initial technology development and risk reduction contracts of the NGI. Both companies won contracts that, if all options are exercised, could reach nearly $4 billion each  (Defense Daily, March 23).

The NGI program is replacing the cancelled Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) program to improve upon and replace the Ground-based Interceptor (GBI) used by the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system based in Fort Greeley, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Hill noted the 2028 deployment is in the government reference schedule.

He said the plan is to flight test the NGI against “the threat it’s going against” and that parallel test target program is proceeding.

Hill said after that initial intercept flight test, MDA would move the program into initial production but “we want to make sure we get a salvo shot off before we actually move into [full] production.”

Hill said it is a challenge to have two separate program offices fire-walled separately when dealing with the two competitive teams.

“So we want to keep them fully informed on where we are as we track the technology development phase,” he said. “There’s a lot of really tough threat issues that we’ve got to meet and we’re going to come through all of that and we’ve got a really strong strategy.”

Hill said this dual award technology development phase will give the Defense Department options for future production.

“Do you want to have a double production line, do you want to have a single production line, where we do the down-select will depend on the state of the development?” he asked.

MDA currently plans to start testing the NGI in 2025-26 and have interceptors placed in silos by 2027-28 in Alaska, following testing. It also expects the total costs of designing, developing and fielding the total planned 20 NGIs will be over $11 billion.