By Ann Roosevelt

Northrop Grumman [NOC], Raytheon [RTN] and incumbent Boeing [BA] say they will respond to the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) Request for Information (RFI) for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) Segment Follow-on Effort.

MDA is working on a follow-on acquisition strategy to the GMD effort now under way with Boeing as prime contractor. Boeing has been under various contracts for a national missile defense (NMD) system since 1997. Development aspects of the current contract are scheduled for completion in December 2008, but production will continue beyond 2008.

The current Boeing-led Team GMD, includes Raytheon [RTN], Northrop Grumman, and Orbital Sciences Corp. [ORB].

In 1998, Boeing won a $1.6 billion contract as lead system integrator for what was then called the NMD program from MDA’s predecessor organization, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. In 2003, the company won an $823 million contract modification for the GMD Block 2004 Capability Enhancement from MDA.

The RFI, posted in the Nov. 20 issue of FBODaily, with responses due Dec. 31, states that MDA is “developing a follow-on contract strategy for the continuation of spiral development, test, fielding, sustainment of the GMD system, and integration of the GMD system with the BMDS (Ballistic Missile Defense System).”

In a Dec. 12 announcement, Jerry Agee, corporate executive for missile defense and president of Northrop Grumman’s Mission Systems sector, said: “As a major prime contractor on numerous large, complex weapons systems for the U.S. government, we are excited about this opportunity. The success of our military weapon systems acquisition process is founded in competition, harnessing the most innovative ideas from the top engineering talent in the industry to tackle our nation’s most pressing challenges, at the best price to taxpayers. Our experience integrating large, sophisticated weapons systems ranges from missile defense to ICBMs to nuclear aircraft carriers. Northrop Grumman intends to bring its strong portfolio to bear on this critical missile defense program and demonstrate that the seamless delivery of an integrated missile defense system–optimized for performance and ready when needed–is within MDA’s grasp.”

Northrop Grumman is a primary supplier of missile defense technology, with a key role in all phases of multi-layered ballistic missile defense system that MDA is building.

Some of the MDA programs Northrop Grumman is working on include the Kinetic Energy Interceptors, Space Tracking and Surveillance System, Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center, the chemical laser portion of the Airborne Laser, and fire control and communications systems.

In a statement, Boeing said the issuance of the RFI was followed closely by MDA’s annual evaluation of the company’s performance in developing and maintaining the GMD system.

“Our work was rated as exceptional and we look forward to the opportunity to continue to lead this vital component of our nation’s defense,” the statement said.

Boeing has leveraged its global systems engineering experience and success to lead the industry team in the GMD effort “from its inception to operations,” the statement said. “Increasingly complex ground and flight tests over the past two years have demonstrated the capabilities of this system. That team includes partners Orbital, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman; and while each partner brings important pieces to the system, the overall success is the result of MDA’s vision and Boeing’s extensive integration capabilities and leadership. Continuing to leverage this proven industry team will guarantee a continued robust capability our nation can rely on today, 24/7, to defend itself against long-range ballistic missiles.”

“Raytheon is responding to the GMD RFI,” a Raytheon spokesman said. “Raytheon is pleased to support MDA as it looks at future options for the GMD program. Raytheon has a great understanding of the GMD system and has played a major role providing the EKV and most of the sensors that feed into the GMD system, including the SBX radar, TPY-2 forward-basd X- Band radar and upgraded early warning radars.”

Raytheon also is the prime contractor for the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System and integrator of the PAC-3 program. It also provides the THAAD radar.

Other companies could respond as well.

When contacted by Defense Daily, Craig Quigley, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors, said, “this is not a decision that we’re willing to share publicly at this time.”

Lockheed Martin is a major player in BMD, as prime contractor on the ground-based PAC-3 Missile Segment upgrade to the Patriot Air Defense System, and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. The company is also combat system engineering agent and prime contractor for the sea-based Aegis BMD weapon system and vertical launch system installed in Aegis-equipped cruisers and destroyers. MDA and the Navy are jointly developing Aegis BMD. The company also provides the Tracking Illuminator Laser (TILL) and the Beacon Illuminator Laser (BILL) for MDAs Airborne Laser program.

The RFI states that the GMD program’s evaluation of acquisition strategy alternatives will be done in multiple stages.

This first RFI concentrates on acquisition risk areas where the government’s availability, suitability and/or the government’s rights in technical data/computer software may be limited. The RFI’s intent is “to gauge what, if any, mitigation strategies are available in support of the identified areas and to gather enough information to determine what, if any, risks, such as schedule delays, may result by breaking out these activities into competitive acquisitions.”

Future RFIs will broaden the scope of information requested and will include more detailed work package scope descriptions with the intent of gauging interest and capability across the entire commercial market/industry, the notice said.

The government’s current acquisition alternatives include segregating the program into two distinct contracts with periods of performance starting in January 2009: Continued Spiral Development, System Evolution, and Integration within GMD and into the BMDS; and Performance Based Logistics (PBL) in support of the fielded GMD system.

All RFI responses should assume these activities are performed as separate contract vehicles, the notice said. However, the government may consider other acquisition alternatives and suggestions offered by industry. Proposed capability presentations/briefings are tentatively scheduled to begin on or about Jan. 7.