The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has chosen Raytheon Missiles and Defense, Lockheed Martin, & Northrop Grumman to design the first-ever Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) for regional hypersonic missile defense. The MDA and the Space Development Agency are also working on developing a Hypersonic Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) satellite for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to expand the GPI’s reach. Theresa Hitchens of Breaking Defense writes (abridged):
WASHINGTON: The Missile Defense Agency has tapped Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to compete in developing a new Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI), a defensive hypersonic weapon designed to take out adversary hypersonic missiles midcourse during their unpowered flight.
Raytheon Missiles and Defense was awarded $20.97 million; Lockheed Martin, $20.94 million; and Northrop Grumman, $18.95 million, according to MDA’s contract announcement today. Concept designs for prototypes from each vendor are due by September 2022. […]
The radar on the Navy’s Aegis ships and the Sea-Based X-band Radar used for terminal defense (i.e. as the missile is getting close to its target) can track hypersonic missiles, but of course that depends being in the right place at the right time.
For this reason, MDA and the Space Development Agency are developing the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) satellites in Low Earth Orbit (between about 100 kilometers and 2,000 kilometers up) to augment current missile warning/tracking satellites that lose hypersonic missiles after their boost phase. Northrop Grumman is also on contract for an HBTSS sensor, competing with L3Harris.
Further, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system’s SM-3 interceptor is designed to kill an incoming missile in space — as is the Army’s Ground-Based Interceptor on the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system. The range of the Navy’s terminal-phase interceptor, the SM-6, is just too short given the high speeds of hypersonic weapons; the range of the Army’s Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) is even shorter.
GPI aims fill that gap, with MDA already considering how the interceptor might be fitted to land-based missile defense systems.