An intercontinental ballistic missile is launched at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. Raytheon and Northrop Grumman announced a partnership on Monday to bid on design and production of the Next Generation Interceptor program to shoot down incoming missiles. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force
May 4 (UPI) -- Northrop Grumman Corp. and Raytheon Missiles & Defense will partner to develop the Defense Department's next missile interceptor, the companies announced on Monday.
The joint effort is in pursuit of a U.S. Missile Defense Agency contract to replace the Redesigned Kill Vehicle program, which was abruptly cancelled in August 2019.
Two bidders will be selected to compete for the Next Generation Interceptor program, a $664.1 million project of the MDA. The Pentagon formally issued a request for proposals in April, and will accept bids until July 31.
"We have the right team, technology and expertise in place to meet our customer's needs for enhanced capabilities, from the identification of a ballistic missile launched by an adversary, all the way to its elimination," Blake Larson, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Space Systems, said in a statement on Monday.
"Together, we will offer MDA an effective and affordable solution for defending our nation from these emerging threats," Larson added.
The U. S. military currently uses Raytheon's Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicle, which uses a ground-based interceptor missile to boost it to an intercept trajectory. It then separates from the boost vehicle and using its own rockets to correct the trajectory, collides with an incoming warhead, known as hit-to-kill.
The replacement Redesigned Kill Vehicle program was cancelled after the Pentagon decided there were too many technological hurdles to overcome.
Although the MDA has offered little information about the program it seeks, the Next Generation Interceptor will similarly use booster missiles and the existing approach to destroying incoming warheads by the sheer force of impact.
The system is expected to also feature multiple warheads, meaning that each missile will be equipped with several kill vehicles to counter a number of attackers. It must also fit in existing missile silos, be available by 2026 and show long-term viability and potential for updating.
The entire program is driven by the potential threat from rogue nations such as North Korea, which intelligence analysts say could conceivably "fractionate" an attack by using multiple warheads or decoy warheads.