Tucson-based Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Northrop Grumman Corp. are partnering to pursue a contract to develop a new interceptor for the nation’s ground-based missile defense system.
The two companies — which last year announced a partnership to pursue contracts for hypersonic missiles — will vie to develop and produce the Next Generation Interceptor for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
The new interceptor will eventually replace the current interceptors that are part of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system, which is designed to intercept intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile threats in space using a non-explosive “kill vehicle” made by Raytheon.
The system currently consists of 44 long-range interceptors deployed in ground silos in California and Alaska.
A new version of Raytheon’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle suffered test-flight failures in 2010 and 2013, prompting the MDA to launch an effort to field a redesigned kill vehicle, or RKV.
But after spending about $700 million on RKV development, the agency last year dropped that effort to focus on a next-generation interceptor expected to cost about $5 billion and be fielded by 2030.
Boeing is now the prime contractor on the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, while Raytheon supplies the kill vehicle and radars and Northrop Grumman provides the interceptor booster and ground- and fire-control systems.
The contractors and MDA have conducted more than 40 successful intercepts in space, including a test last year in which two ground-based interceptors destroyed an intercontinental ballistic missile target.
“The joining of true experts — with mastery from threat detection to interception — creates a team capable of developing a revolutionary solution that is designed to defeat emerging threats,” Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense, said in a news release announcing the new partnership.
Raytheon announced last year that it was partnering with Northrop Grumman under a $200 million contract to develop an air-breathing, hypersonic cruise missile for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force, using Northrop’s scramjet engines.
Raytheon Missiles & Defense is part of the new Raytheon Technologies Corp., which was created from a merger of Raytheon Co. and United Technologies Corp. finalized in early April.
The company, which also makes the Standard Missile-3 series of mainly sea-based ballistic missile interceptors, is Southern Arizona’s biggest private employer, with about 13,000 local workers.
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