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Delta 180 launch on September 5, 1986. (Photo: Federation of American Scientists)

On Friday, April 24, after nine months of long anticipation and great expectations, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) released its request for proposals (RFP) to build the Next-Generation Interceptor (NGI) for the defense of the United States homeland. The MDA RFP has a deadline of July 31 this year and was submitted to industry to develop the NGI as a holistic replacement for the aging fleet of 44 Ground Based Interceptors (GBIs), for deployment as early as 2028. A brand-new set of capabilities that will incorporate the best lessons learned from the three generations of the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) over 20 years currently on the GBI fleet and from the Navy’s evolving Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors, as it too would incorporate the most advanced hardware technologies to host frequent software upgrades for continual lifetime modernization. A new generational set of efficiency and effectiveness that will look to bring the concept of swarming  of multiple smart exoatmospheric kill vehicles on one NGI. With the capacity and capability to disperse in intervals in space for layering that would all have persistent communication to existing and future space-based discrimination sensors and satellite constellations such as the Hypersonic Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS). A common kill vehicle that potentially could be applied on two stage boosters, on the SM-3, be transportable and integrated onto future interceptor booster stacks. An inherent counter space capability in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command Commander would exist in the NGI. This capability being on a single interceptor significantly force multiplies interceptor capacity and reduces the cost per kill and significantly reduces shot doctrine while increasing reliability and effectiveness. The current GBI interceptors are estimated to be $80 million per interceptor with a varying shot doctrine of multiple GBIs for each incoming intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) threat providing a limited capability. The simple NGI math gives great cost savings plus great effectiveness and great efficiency total for a generational leap in deterrence capability to those that threaten the United States with ICBMs. Once developed, tested, and deployed it is a tremendous win for the defense of the U.S. homeland and assurance to our allies and partners.

The pathfinder, the proof of principle and the foremost fundamental building block of the GBI and now the NGI for its ability to operate, sense, discriminate and intercept in space was created in 1986 by Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Dr. Mike Griffin.  Dr Griffin was the chief engineer of the Delta 180 intercept in space of the first ever direct Hit-to-Kill intercept that proved it could be done and was brought from concept to interception in just 16 months. The Delta 180 used a suite of Brilliant Pebbles sensors producing a direct head on intercept as it demonstrated that the United States could do very sophisticated intercepts in space and did it with the speed, accuracy, and fidelity needed to convince the community that all of the analysis of sensor constellations had a sound basis for hit to kill technology. Dr. Griffin was awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal for this achievement and for this exceptional leadership in aerospace engineering. In 2014 MDA awarded Dr. Griffin the Ronald Reagan Award and on behalf of First Lady Nancy Reagan for her husband President Ronald Reagan, MDAA presented Dr. Griffin a personal inscription from the First Lady for his leadership on the Strategic Defense Initiative. Under Secretary Dr. Mike Griffin in his current position is overseeing MDA and the NGI proposal in its development and deployment as the latest generation from the Delta 180.

The existing Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system continues to fulfill its role in creating strategic stability with a deployed and proven hit to kill capability against ICBM threats from rouge nations for the defense of the United States homeland. The GMD system will have to continue to do its national security objective of defending the United States homeland and deterring North Korea since it was first deployed July 22, 2004 with a significant jump in technology with the  NGI deploying in 2028. A system that also came from the Army which had early success from the U.S. Army’s Space Command,  and determined leadership from  Brigadier General Eugene Fox controversial Homing Overlay Experiment (HOE) leveraging the legacy of the Sprint and Spartan nuclear system interceptors, which were cancelled by President Nixon in 1972 in advent of Mutual Assured Destruction  with a non-nuclear payload and a proximity simple and direct command sensor at lower speeds and lower altitudes than the Delta 180. The HOE used a close to 15 foot net to intercept a ballistic missile on its fourth attempt in 1984. The Army HOE was a proof of principle for the Army Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), improved Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) and lower tier intercepts.

The instability of North Korea today of their leadership and future leadership, their ICBM nuclear forces, their own internal power circle and China’s influence on them places vital United States dependency on the current GMD force of 44 missiles and the Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) to be at the highest readiness levels with highest reliability. Over the next eight years there is a risk apparent from both North Korea and Iran, who recently launched a military satellite into space, growth in capacity to threaten the U.S. homeland.

The NGI could not come soon enough, it’s been a long time coming.

Mission Statement

MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.

MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.