The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) released the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the next missile defense interceptor, the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI), on Friday.
The NGI replaces the scrapped the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) program, which was canceled due to delays and deficiencies. Whereas the RKV was only improving the kinetic interceptor at the end of the Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI), the NGIs will replace the entire missiles.
The GBIs are part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system that aims to defend the U.S. from a limited ballistic missile attack from a country like North Korea. MDA intends to produce at least 20 NGIs replacing the planned 20 RKVs to fill silos at the Fort Greely, Alaska, GMD site.
The RFP notice underscored MDA is cognizant of potential COVID-19 pandemic impacts to the RFP responses and is providing contractors a longer than normal response time that may change further.
“MDA understands the concerns with releasing an RFP during the COVID-19 crisis and has been in communication with NGI prime offerors to assess their availability to receive and evaluate the RFP,” the notice said.
The RFP is giving contractors 90 days to provide proposals, starting on May 1, and is calling for proposals to be in by July 31. However, as DoD guidance changes “adjustments for COVID-19 may occur based on Real World Events.”
The NGI RFP issuance “marks a vital step forward in designing, developing, and fielding the finest capabilities of both the DoD and American industry for the extraordinarily important purpose of defending the American homeland. Notably, the intention of awarding two contracts for simultaneous development of the NGI effort promotes a healthy competition between the two contractor teams to produce the best NGI possible in the shortest time feasible,” MDA spokesman Mark Wright told Defense Daily in an email.
Wright said the agency estimates the total cost of designing, developing, and fielding 20 NGIs will be “just over $11 billion,” assuming MDA awards two prime contractors and maintains them through the critical design review period.
MDA’s FY 2021 budget request documents planned NGI development to cost $4.9 billion over the next five years, with $638 million in FY 2021. When the documents were released, MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said NGI testing is planned to start in 2025-26 and then start adding the interceptors to the GBI silos at Fort Greely as early as 2027-28 (Defense Daily, Feb. 11).
The budget documents said two competitive interceptor development contracts are scheduled to be awarded in July 2020. Hill said using two suppliers through at least the preliminary design phase will help risk reduction.
At the time, Hill said he expected the RFP to be released by the end of February. He subsequently told Congress the NGI RFP was expected to be released by the end of March and an award was expected by the end of 2020.
Last month, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin said he expected four companies will submit bids for NGI, including RKV prime contractor Boeing [BA], which confirmed its participation to Defense Daily (Defense Daily, March 11).
Griffin said he expected the NGI program to take about 10 years to reach deployment at a “75 percent confidence level so that I could have some surety that we were not overpromising and underdelivering.”
However, he noted RFI’s submitted by interested contractors found it is possible to significantly shorten that period.
In March, Hill underscored delivering NGI at a faster pace than the delayed RKV depends on the industrial base.
“Part of gaining our speed back is making sure the industrial base is ready to deliver the kind of parts and components that we need to operate in these really harsh environments and to have them last a long time. Because I full well know when these go in the ground, they’re going to be there for a long time,” he said (Defense Daily, March 10).
Hill reiterated MDA was examining whether the two vendors will remain through only the preliminary design review or also through the critical design review.
“Because of the complexity of hit to kill and the complexity of a kill vehicle, I would like to see it go all the way to the first flight test. But we have to see where the budget leaves us and we really won’t know,” Hill said in March.