WASHINGTON — The Missile Defense Agency’s $8.9 billion fiscal 2022 budget request focuses heavily on the development of future capabilities including a next-generation interceptor for homeland missile defense, a hypersonic defensive capability and space-based tracking critical to detecting challenging threats, according to budget documents released May 28.
The budget request is down slightly from last year’s request of $9.2 billion, but Congress in its FY21 spending bill injected $1.3 billion into the agency’s budget. For next year, the agency is requesting $7.16 billion in research, development, test and evaluation dollars, $1.24 billion in procurement and $502 million in operations and maintenance.
Some of the most significant efforts in FY22 include $926.1 million to develop a next-generation interceptor for the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System positioned in Alaska and California.
The MDA has chosen Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to compete head-to-head to win a contract to build the NGI with a plan to field the system in 2028. The funding will be able to carry both competitors through a critical design review stage, Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the Missile Defense Agency director told reporters at the Pentagon May 28.
The agency is requesting $1.9 billion to support the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system. This includes plans to upgrade and replace ground system infrastructure as well as fire control and kill vehicle software, which leaders hope will contribute to a more reliable, capable and secure system.
The funding also includes acquiring five boosters to “ensure the number of fielded [ground-based interceptors] does not decrease through the [five-year development plan],” an agency budget document describes.
MDA is also asking for $61.4 million for GMD testing in FY22 and another $156.6 million to maintain and sustain the GMD system.
The Aegis weapon system program would receive $732.5 million if enacted in FY22. Part of the funding covers software spiral development to keep pace against increasingly complex threats in more complex environments. The agency also plans to spend $647.4 million on Aegis SM-3 missiles. That includes 40 SM-3 Block IB missiles and eight SM-3 Block IIA missiles.
The agency is also asking for $43.2 million to modernize and test its Aegis Ashore capability at its test complex in Hawaii for implementation at operational sites in Romania and Poland. Romania reached operational capability in 2016 while Poland’s capability has been delayed to “no earlier than” FY22 due to construction issues having mostly to do with a local contractor. Included in that funding is work to harden the High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse Combat System at the Romanian site.
The land-based Aegis Ashore systems are part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach to regional ballistic missile defense.
The Aegis test program would receive $117.1 million if the request is approved.
The agency is planning to fund $78.3 million to look at systems that could support the defense of Guam. “Funds support detailed threat and requirements analysis, systems engineering, trade studies, specifications updates and risk management in support if INDOPACOM stated needs,” the MDA budget overview states. The Pentagon is in the process of finalizing details of this system.
Additionally, MDA is asking for $40 million to procure long-lead items in FY22 for Guam defense. “MDA plans to begin procuring materials that are common to the architectures under consideration including components for fire control, radar technology, and common display processing equipment,” a budget document states.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) program would get $649 million to be upgraded to support emerging threats, testing, and procurement of 18 THAAD interceptors as well as regular operations and maintenance of existing batteries.
The agency’s pursuit of hypersonic defense capability would also receive funding to move forward in a program in FY22. The MDA wants to spend $247.9 million to develop glide phase intercept capability as well as other technologies needed for a future architecture and to support the acceleration of an operational demonstration of the glide phase defense capability using the Aegis weapon system.
A small amount of funding — $14 million — would address U.S. Northern Command’s requirements for cruise missile defense of the homeland. The money would help MDA begin development needed for the capability that would involved using the Joint Tactical Integrated Fire Control system.
The agency is also seeking $292.8 million to fund two satellite programs: The Space-based Kill Assessment (SKA) project and the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS). SKA uses infrared sensors hosted on commercial satellites to detect whether interceptors successfully destroy incoming ballistic missile threats. FY22 funding will allow the agency to complete development of the operational hit assessment software code while further developing kill assessment algorithms and threat models. The agency also hopes to finalize integration of SKA with the all-domain Missile Defense System.
The other satellite system under that funding is HBTSS, a component of DoD’s new proliferated low Earth orbit (P-LEO) constellation being built in collaboration with the Space Development Agency and U.S. Space Force to defeat hypersonic weapons. Hypersonic weapons present a unique challenge to the military’s missile warning infrastructure, appearing too faint to be easily picked up by the U.S. Space Force’s satellites in geostationary orbit and being able to maneuver around terrestrial sensors. Under the Pentagon’s new architecture, SDA’s tracking layer satellites — operating far closer to the Earth’s surface — can detect the hypersonic threats. Tracking custody is then passed from satellite to satellite as the threat traverses the globe, before HBTSS take over with its more advanced sensors that can create targeting solutions for interceptors.
MDA issued $277 million in contracts to L3Harris and Northrop Grumman in January to build two prototype HBTSS satellites to launch in FY23. In FY22, MDA plans to continue maturing its tracking algorithm and assemble and integrate the infrared sensors.
In addition to funding those two satellite systems, MDA is requesting $15.2 million to retire its two Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) satellites. MDA used the program to demonstrate the ability to target and successfully intercept ballistic missiles with the use of on orbit sensors. Launched in 2009, the two satellites have operated long past their expected service life, continuing to help MDA reduce risk for future missile-tracking and surveillance satellite systems and support integrated BMDS testing. However, depleted fuel reserves and outdated control systems convinced the agency to finally retire the program.
Nathan Strout, senior C4ISRNet staff writer, contributed to this report.
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 in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.