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MDA sets out new headmark for sea-based Glide Phase Interceptor

The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has outlined plans to develop and demonstrate a sea-based Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) designed to provide defence against hypersonic boost-glide threats in the glide phase of flight.

A broad agency announcement (BAA) released by the agency’s Sea-Based Weapon Systems Program Executive Office on 12 April has outlined a requirement for GPI prototype concepts leveraging a kinetic energy kill mechanism and integrated with the US Navy’s Aegis Weapon System and Mk 41 vertical launch system (VLS). MDA plans that the prototype effort will culminate in a flight test demonstration from the Pacific Missile Test Range on Kauai, Hawaii.

Hypersonic glide vehicles are able to travel at speeds of at Mach 5 or above and, more importantly, they have the ability to manoeuvre and change course after they are released from their rocket boosters. These characteristics make it more difficult to predict the intended target, and to direct missile defensive interceptors toward the threat glide vehicle.

The MDA in February this year scrubbed plans to pursue development of a Regional Glide Phase Weapon System (RGPWS) counter-hypersonic programme, electing instead to take forward plans to deploy a new sea-based GPI by the end of this decade. However, it is intended that information from the RGPWS programme will feed into GPI to accelerate its development.

In its recently released BAA for GPI, the MDA has asked interested parties to submit white papers by 12 May for “innovative concepts that provide affordable, reliable, high capacity, robust capability defending against regional hypersonic threats during the glide phase of flight and other advanced threats”. Multiple initial contract awards are anticipated in ‘summer 2021’ according to the agency.

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