Lockheed Forecasts 2027 NGI Fielding Date

Lockheed’s NGI system is designed for multiple kill vehicles to defeat one incoming threat.
Credit: Lockheed Martin illustration

Lockheed Martin says its proposal for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) could be fielded as early as 2027.

The system requirements review for the homeland defense system, which wrapped up on Oct. 1, occurred just six months after Lockheed and Northrop Grumman won initial development and demonstration contracts from the MDA. Most programs of this size and scope would take 9-12 months to clear the review, which ensured the program’s requirements are mapped to Lockheed’s architecture, company officials said.

“One thing that is unique is it is an all-digital program,” said Sara Reeves, vice president of the Next Generation Interceptor effort at Lockheed. “From the very beginning of the design and development phase, we are moving in using all-digital tools.”

Next the company will move into product development. “What’s great about the digital thread is you end up with a closed-loop system, so you can go through the design cycles very quickly,” Reeves said. Now that the closed-loop system is solidified, parts testing can begin—a key element in perfecting the design for a preliminary design review. 

According to Todd Stevens, director of advanced programs at Lockheed, parts testing will help ensure that electronics will be able to survive harsh radiation—an outgrowth of lessons learned from Raytheon’s Redesigned Kill Vehicle program, which was canceled in 2019.

Fielding a new missile defense interceptor by 2027 would outpace the desire of military leaders. U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command chief Gen. Glen van Herck has called for deployment of the system on or before 2028. But the Pentagon’s cost assessment and program evaluation office has said even that date is optimistic.

An outside analyst is also urging a cautious approach. “The discussion about delivery in 2028 is good, but I also think that it’s really important to get this right,” said Tom Karako, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We shouldn’t rush it, and we should focus on a competitive and conservative acquisition strategy.”

Jen DiMascio

Based in Washington, Jen manages Aviation Week’s worldwide defense, space and security coverage.