WASHINGTON — The three companies designing a kill vehicle that can take out multiple warheads with a single interceptor have completed their first program planning reviews with the Missile Defense Agency, marking a critical step toward determining key elements of the designs.

Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing were all awarded $9.7 million contracts in August 2015 by the Missile Defense Agency to work on designs.

"The milestone is a critical part of the concept development phase," Raytheon wrote in a statement, adding it is "aligned with the MDA's expectations and on track for a concept review in December."

Raytheon is using its expertise across four kill vehicle programs including the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System's Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle.

The EKV, a critical component of the interceptors of the GMD system designed to protect the homeland from possible ballistic missile threats from North Korea and Iran, struggled in tests. The MDA is redesigning the already fielded system to build in more reliability and capability.

Raytheon said its design will be capable of destroying several objects by using "advanced sensor, divert and attitude control and communications technologies."

The company also said that between its Standard Missile-3 and EKV programs, it has achieved more than 30 intercepts in space "far more than any other company."

Lockheed Martin also completed its program planning review in October, according to company spokeswoman Lynn Fisher.

The company is developing a system concept for destroying more than one warhead with a single interceptor, she said, adding: "This is an important step in changing the cost curve for missile defense engagement."

In August, Doug Graham, Lockheed's vice president of missile systems and advanced programs within the company's Space Systems division, said: "Our talented engineers will use out-of-the-box Silicon Valley thinking to create an ultrahigh performance system that will operate outside of the atmosphere while traveling thousands of miles per hour."

Lockheed is building its design also based on its experience developing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles. According to a statement, the hit-to-kill interceptors have achieved more than 100 successful intercepts in combat and flight testing since 1984 — "more than any other company."

Boeing has also completed its review, company spokeswoman Cheryl Sampson said.

Email: jjudson@defensenews.com

Twitter: @JenJudson

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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