US could triple next-gen ‘hit-to-kill’ interceptors NGI to 64

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The US Missile Defense Agency’s plan to procure and deploy 20 Next Generation Interceptors [NGIs] might be on the verge of a shake-up. One of the main reasons? There’s talk about increasing the number of interceptors. According to sources who have seen a draft proposal from the House Armed Services Committee, the Department of Defense might have to rethink its initial strategy. 

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

The committee’s draft for the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill includes a clause that mandates the Missile Defense Agency’s director to update Congress by early March 2025 on potential plans to replace the current ground-based interceptors with the new NGIs.

So, what’s driving the Commission’s stance? It’s the current state of the ground-based interceptors [GBIs] deployed in the US. There are rising concerns about their age, reliability, and ongoing effectiveness. The Commission’s report points out these worries and highlights a gap: there’s no existing plan to tackle these issues or to replace the aging interceptors, making this update all the more crucial. 

The US military has four Ground-Based Interceptors [GBIs] stationed in silos at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and an additional 40 GBIs at Ft. Greely in Alaska. These interceptors come in three versions, each equipped with one of three different kill vehicles: the original Capability Enhancement [CE]-I, the upgraded CE-II, and the further improved CE-II Block I.

Moreover, the Missile Defense Agency [MDA] has established a new 20-silo missile field at Ft. Greely. This field was initially intended for new interceptors under the Next Generation Interceptor [NGI] predecessor project, which was discontinued in 2019 along with its Redesigned Kill Vehicle. 

Lockheed Martin has secured a contract from the MDA to develop the NGI. The NGI interceptor is an advanced defense system designed to significantly improve the United States’ ability to counter intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] threats.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

The Next Generation Interceptor [NGI] program is a key part of the Missile Defense Agency’s [MDA] effort to modernize the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense [GMD] system, which serves as the primary shield against long-range missile threats. 

NGI aims to replace outdated ground-based interceptors [GBIs] with cutting-edge technology. These new interceptors will feature advanced sensors, upgraded propulsion systems, and enhanced kill vehicles designed to destroy incoming warheads in space.

Set to be operational by the end of this decade, NGI represents a considerable upgrade to the U.S. missile defense system. This program is vital for maintaining strategic equilibrium and ensuring national security  in an era of increasingly complex and diversified missile threats. By integrating state-of-the-art technologies and innovative designs, NGI aims to provide a robust and flexible response to emerging adversarial missile challenges. 

The Biden administration, two years ago, made it clear that it did not support a plan to triple the NGI fleet, citing the project’s exorbitant costs and its inconsistency with both the 2022 National Defense Strategy and the 2022 Missile Defense Review.

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