WASHINGTON — The Missile Defense Agency awarded Northrop Grumman a contract potentially worth more than $3 billion to integrate and manage weapon systems within the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system designed to defend the U.S. homeland from intercontinental ballistic missiles from North Korea and Iran.

Northrop will provide design, development, verification, deployment and sustainment support of new capabilities for the GMD Weapon System Program, the company said in an Aug. 1 statement.

The effort will include enhancing and upgrading the GMD’s capability to go up against evolving threats, according to Scott Lehr, Northrop’s vice president of launch and missile defense systems.

“GWS is part of Northrop Grumman’s land and sea-based missile defense systems that are enabled by our advanced missile warning and tracking space satellites,” he said in the statement. “Together, we are delivering end-to-end capabilities that will protect the United States and its allies.”

The program will take current ground system components of the GMD system, and through “proven digital transformation processes,” Northrop will update and modernize legacy code, add capabilities and incorporate the Next-Generation Interceptor when it comes online, it said.

A Northrop and Raytheon Technologies team is competing against a Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne team to replace the GMD’s Ground-Based Interceptors with NGIs.

There are 44 GBIs in silos buried in the ground at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The system also includes ground control stations, detection and fire control systems and other support infrastructure.

The GWS program team will primarily be located in Huntsville, Alabama.

The Northrop contract is step toward revamping how the GMD system is managed and was part of an MDA effort to inject competition into the required modernization and sustainment of the system.

Boeing has held the development and sustainment contract for the GMD system, which is set to expire in 2023.

“I will tell you that our lead system integrator does a great job today and the partnerships with industry within that construct do a great job, but we think that it’s so large and complex we should be doing everybody a favor by being able to split that up without losing the integration among all those pieces so our intent is to move in that direction,” Vice Adm. Jon Hill, MDA’s director said in 2020 when he announced the plan to hold a competition that would divide up the work needed for GMD modernization and sustainment.

A Request for Information released that year laid out a plan to split up the contract into separate pieces. One contractor would provide the NGI, which is being addressed through a separate request for proposals. Another would be responsible for legacy and future ground systems, and another for sustaining the existing GBIs.

And a company would operate the weapon system along with military operators and would run fleet maintenance scheduling and deconfliction, site operations, test support, and depot and parts management, the RFI lays out.

Lastly, a contractor would serve as the weapon systems integrator, making it responsible for overall GMD integration “including physical and logical integration of the GMD components, GMD system and MDA enterprise level integration, planning and execution of all necessary testing to verify and validate overall requirements compliance,” the RFI states.

Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.

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