WASHINGTON — Air Force Maj. Gen. Heath Collins will pin on a third star and become the Missile Defense Agency’s next director, according to the Pentagon’s general officer announcement on May 31.

Collins will replace Vice Adm. Jon Hill, who has served as director since 2019.

The Air Force general is currently the MDA’s program executive officer for Ground-Based Weapons Systems at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. Within that $3.4 billion portfolio, Collins manages the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System, consisting of interceptors in the ground at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, designed to intercept potential intercontinental ballistic missiles from North Korea and Iran.

Also under his purview is the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, four Joint U.S. and Israeli programs and other classified programs.

Collins previously was the Air Force’s program executive officer for weapons and director of the armament directorate, where he worked on the Air Force’s $92 billion non-nuclear weapons, munitions and ammunition portfolio.

The general began his military career in 1993 as a missile analyst in the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

As the services are moving to develop offensive hypersonic capability, Collins recently oversaw the ups and downs of the Air Force’s AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon development, or ARRW, which experienced a successful test last year. Amid a slew of failed test events before and after its successful one, the Air Force decided to drop the Lockheed Martin-developed program earlier this year.

Now, Collins will oversee an MDA program in its nascent phase of development — an interceptor capable of taking out hypersonic weapons in the glide phase of flight, a difficult technical challenge.

MDA has also spent the last four years working to upgrade the GMD system, which resides in Collins’ current portfolio. Two teams are competing to build a next-generation interceptor for the system as the current system undergoes a service life extension program.

Collins will also manage the MDA portion of a major new venture in Guam to develop a highly capable air and missile defense architecture to defend the island territory from continuously evolving and growing threats in the region. Some elements of that architecture include systems already in his purview.

The MDA’s $10.9 billion fiscal 2024 budget request continues to prioritize regional and homeland missile defense with a major focus on building the defensive architecture in Guam.

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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