WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman has unveiled its team to design America’s next intercontinental ballistic missile.
Technically, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, or GBSD, is still an open competition. However, Northrop stands as the only competitor. Lockheed Martin was knocked out in late 2017, and Boeing dropped out of the competition in July. Boeing claimed Northrop’s acquisition of solid-fueled rocket motor manufacturer Orbital ATK, now known as Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, gave the competitor an unfair advantage.
Boeing has since made overtures toward Northrop, arguing that a partnership involving the two companies would benefit the development of GBSD. But while there had been some speculation the Air Force might push Northrop to give Boeing, at the least, some of its workshare, Boeing on Friday announced that Northrop rejected the teaming proposal.
Northrop’s current team is broken down this way:
- Aerojet Rocketdyne: solid-fueled rocket motor, post-boost propulsion
- General Dynamics: command and control
- Collins Aerospace: command and control
- Lockheed Martin: command and control, missile payload integration
- Textron Systems: missile payload integration
- Parsons: engineering, procurement, construction
- BRPH: architectural and engineering
- Clark Construction: construction integration
- L3Harris: training systems
- Honeywell: guidance, missile electronics
Greg Manuel, Northrop’s GBSD lead, declined to comment on what discussions were had with Boeing. However, Manuel’s statement emphasized the “nationwide” nature of its chosen partners.
“What I can tell you is we have formed this nationwide team to bring deep expertise in the ICBM missile systems community from across the defense industry to serve the Air Force,” Manuel said in a statement. “We are confident that our integrated team leverages capabilities and capacity of industry to provide a best value propulsion solution to the Air Force as part of the integrated GBSD weapons system. The Air Force’s top priorities for GBSD are schedule, safety, and affordability. Our nationwide team is best positioned to deliver a safe and affordable GBSD solution on time.”
Lockheed’s presence is particularly notable, given its status as a former competitor on the program. The inclusion of the world’s largest defense firm on Northrop’s team may provide Northrop cover against arguments from Boeing and its supporters that Northrop is harming the GBSD effort by not including another major prime.
In 2016, Lockheed announced it teamed with General Dynamics (weapon system command and control), Draper Laboratories (guidance navigation and control systems), Moog, (cross-vector control systems) and Bechtel (launch facilities). Only GD appears to have come along with Lockheed to the Northrop team.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.