Pentagon budget 2021: MDA requests funding to augment strategic missile defences

11 February 2020

The ‘trail’ interceptor shown launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base about 50 seconds after the ‘lead’ interceptor. This was the system’s first-ever salvo engagement. Source: US MDA

The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is requesting about USD1.9 billion in fiscal year 2021 (FY 2021) to improve its strategic homeland missile defence system, including USD664.1 million to develop a new interceptor after a similar programme was cancelled last year.

The Pentagon was planning to use new Redesigned Kill Vehicles (RKVs) for another 20 ground-based interceptors (GBIs) that were to be purchased and deployed at Fort Greely in Alaska. There are 40 GBIs at Fort Greely and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Plans to increase GMD's capacity with more interceptors, all at Fort Greely in Alaska, were codified by Congress in 2017.

MDA had spent about USD1.2 billion to develop a more reliable RKV to replace the legacy Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) on the GBI homeland defence interceptors, but revealed in March 2019 that RKV would be delayed by two years. The technical problem found in the RKVs, which MDA declined to detail, was then thought to have pushed the deployment back to FY 2025. RKV was cancelled in May 2019, and MDA was directed to issue a request for proposals for a Next-Generation Interceptor (NGI).

The Pentagon's goal had been to field the 20 additional interceptors - for a total of 64 - by FY 2023.

For NGI, the agency said in FY 2021 it would "continue design and development activities for two competitive interceptor development contracts scheduled to be awarded in July 2020". The Pentagon's five-year funding plan, beginning in FY 2021, includes USD4.9 billion for the NGI programme, according to Michelle Atkinson, MDA director for operations. She said that funding was, for now, all for research and development. The USD664.1 million in FY 2021 funding would support "initial requirements analysis, design, development, prototyping, and relevant environment testing to mature the booster, payload, sensor(s), and design-specific critical technologies", it added.

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