MDA Unveils GPI In Retooled Counter-Hypersonic Plan

Artist's concept of RGPWS.
Credit: DARPA

Having completed a wide-ranging review of options, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is moving forward with a plan to expand the rebranded “Missile Defense System” with an accelerated effort to field a new Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) against maneuvering hypersonic missiles in the mid- to late-2020s. 

The changes, which are disclosed in a Jan. 28 acquisition notice, officially broaden the scope of the previously named “Ballistic Missile Defense System” to include the threat of rocket-boosted, hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) that can maneuver within the atmosphere. 

The acquisition notice formally cancels a Request for Prototype Proposal process opened early last year for a Regional Glide Phase Weapon System (RGPWS), which was intended to be fielded in the early 2030s. 

Following “an assessment and review of requirements at all levels of the Missile Defense System,” the notice says, MDA now intends to accelerate the plan to deploy a new sea-based GPI by the end of this decade. MDA will formally launch the GPI acquisition program in a follow-on acquisition notice, which is scheduled for release by the end of March. 

“The Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) is leveraging information from RGPWS to accelerate the development of an operational system for hypersonic missile defense using the proven Aegis platform to provide regional hypersonic missile defense,” MDA told Aviation Week. 

Although the term “Regional” has been dropped in the transition to the GPI program, the initial version of the new interceptor will remain focused on defeating regional HGVs. China has fielded the medium-range DF-17 HGV. 

“The GPI capability will be developed in phases to deliver increasing regional defensive capabilities to the U.S. warfighter over time,” MDA said in response to emailed questions. 

Major elements of the GPI program will likely appear familiar to the missile defense community. Many of the same assets used to counter ballistic threats, including interceptors, sensors and command-and-control systems, will be modified for a hypersonic defense role, MDA said. 

The defense industry unveiled several options for MDA’s consideration in 2020. Lockheed Martin is working on a new version of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor for GPI called Dart. Raytheon has proposed altering the SM-3 as a hypersonic interceptor called Hawk. And Boeing is offering a new Hypervelocity Interceptor, which is also known as “Hyvint.” 

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.