SAN FRANCISCO — Lockheed Martin Space Systems plans to enter a competition to build targets for U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) medium-range ballistic missile flight tests, company officials said.

In a Jan. 13 posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website, MDA announced plans to issue within 30 days a draft solicitation for missile defense targets capable of being launched from the ground or by aircraft. The agency plans to buy six missile targets designed to mimic the threat posed by enemy missiles equipped with 600-kilogram payloads. The contract is likely to include options to purchase additional targets, according to the announcement.

A final request for proposals is scheduled to be published in March. MDA plans to issue a contract award in 2012, according to the announcement.

“We intend to compete for that and we also intend to win it,” said Salvatore “Tory” Bruno, president of Strategic & Missile Defense Systems for Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif. Lockheed already produces 40 percent of MDA’s targets, he added.

Lockheed Martin’s strategy for winning the Medium Range Ballistic Missile target competition is to use the modular approach to producing targets. “We’ve broken up target missiles into subsystems,” Bruno said. “Some subsystems are required to replicate certain threats and some are not.” To make targets affordable, company officials produce those subsystems in bulk and include only the essential elements in each target, he added.

Lockheed Martin also has developed a “ship and shoot” approach to target production, Bruno said. Instead of conducting final assembly and integration at the site where the target will be launched, the company completes integration work at the factory. When the target reaches its launch site, it is “ready to go,” he added.

These efforts to trim costs and bolster the company’s competitive posture also are figuring into research programs. As pressure to reduce federal spending intensifies, Lockheed Martin Strategic & Missile Defense Systems plans to concentrate independent research and development efforts on technologies that offer the promise of reducing the cost of missile defense systems, Bruno said.

In the past, Lockheed’s independent research and development projects included a mix of technologies designed to improve performance and technologies designed to lower program costs, Bruno said Jan. 17 during a conference call with reporters. “As you look forward, you probably will see a lot more focus on investments that will bring down the cost of these systems while maintaining their reliability,” he said.

The conference call was designed to highlight Lockheed Martin’s achievements in missile defense in 2011. One of those achievements was a successful test of the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) being developed by the United States, Germany and Italy. During a test in November at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, MEADS succeeded in striking down a target approaching from the rear. “The test demonstrated an unprecedented over-the-shoulder launch of the [U.S. Army’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement] interceptor against a simulated target attacking from behind,” MichaelTrotsky, Lockheed Martin vice president air and missile defense, said.

Lockheed Martin officials plan to conduct additional testing of MEADS in 2012. During tests scheduled to be conducted in Italy, “we will marry up the individual pieces: the surveillance radar; the multifunction control radar; the launcher; and the Battle Management Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence,” Trotsky said. In late 2012 or early 2013, MEADS is scheduled to undergo additional flight tests at White Sands, he added.

Congressional opposition puts the MEADS program in jeopardy, however. In the 2012 Defense Department budget signed Dec. 31 by U.S. President Barack Obama, Congress provided $390 million for the program but specified that no more than one-quarter of that funding can be obligated until Defense Secretary Leon Panetta submits a plan for a smaller, restructured MEADS program or a plan to cover the cost of terminating the MEADS program. The restructured MEADS program “will result in significant technology from MEADS being transitioned into [other] U.S. programs,” Trotsky said.

In 2012, Lockheed Martin also plans to lead a team conducting flight and ground testing as part of the Command Control Battle Management and Communications (C2BMC) program, which is designed to link an array of missile defense sensors with interceptors. In December, MDA awarded a contract worth an estimated $980 million over five years to a five-company team led by Lockheed Martin to continue C2BMC development, testing, operations and support activities. That work will include development and prototyping of the capability to launch rockets remotely, said John Osborn, director of the Missile Defense Unit of Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions-Defense in Arlington, Va. The five-member Missile Defense National Team participating in the C2BMC program includes Boeing Co., General Dynamics Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp. and Raytheon Co.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...