Lockheed Martin wins contract for next-generation missile interceptors.

The US Missile Defense Agency announced Monday that Lockheed Martin had been awarded a $17 billion contract to lead the development of next-generation interceptors (NGI) designed to protect against potential intercontinental ballistic missile threats.

Lockheed Martin beat out rival Northrop Grumman to win the multi-year contract to develop and manufacture a new warhead for land-based missile interceptors deployed in California and Alaska.

“The American defense industry is one of our country’s greatest strengths, and having to decide between two different design approaches was very difficult,” said Lt. Gen. Heath Collins, director of the Missile Defense Agency.

“That said, in our effort to go fast and think big, we have complete confidence in our decision to bet on Lockheed Martin and its plans to develop and field a next-generation interceptor that meets the operational needs of USNORTHCOM and is ready for its location in 2028,” Collins added.

The goal of the interceptor program is to counter current ballistic missile threats and anticipated technological advances from countries such as North Korea and Iran. It is not intended to stop the waves of missiles that China or Russia could launch.

Winning this contract is a boost for Lockheed following the US decision to reduce orders for the F-35 and the Army’s decision in February to halt the development of a Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, a next-generation helicopter project in which Lockheed participated in the design phase.

Lockheed Martin wins contract for next-generation missile interceptors.

Lockheed Martin wins contract for next-generation missile interceptors.
Artist’s rendering of the NGI in flight.

The agency expressed confidence in its decision, citing the technical maturity of the solutions, objective performance data provided by the contractor, technical rigor in the design development process, and early testing built into the program from the beginning.

The NGI is currently in the technology development phase and is scheduled to move into product development in May. The United States plans to acquire 20 interceptors and deploy them at Fort Greely (Alaska).

The plan is to deploy the new IGN by the end of 2028 at the latest. Collins, who heads the agency, informed a congressional subcommittee last week that both competing teams had “successfully completed their Preliminary Design Reviews.”

Collins had previously stated that the agency would choose between Lockheed and Northrop Grumman for the program. Both companies received separate contracts in 2021 to develop their designs.

The Biden administration has requested $28.4 billion for missile defenses in its fiscal year 2025 budget.

The new interceptor aims to rectify deficiencies in a previous failed warhead program that was developed during the Obama and Trump administrations. The contract with Boeing was terminated in August 2019 after spending $1.2 billion, with deployment plans for 2023.

The United States subsequently opted to restart the procurement process to solicit bids for the entire interceptor. Boeing was eliminated from the contest in 2021.

Kiran Tom Sajan