Lockheed Would Produce New Interceptor in Alabama

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Lockheed Martin announced Aug. 24 that should it land the Pentagon contract to build a new missile interceptor dubbed the Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block 2B, production would take place at an existing company facility in Courtland, Ala.

“This is a little presumptuous on our part, but … it was important to make the decision and build it into the proposal we’ll submit next year for the product development phase [to] the Missile Defense Agency,” Douglas R. Graham, who heads Lockheed Martin’s missile defense arm, said during a press briefing in Washington.

By using the existing facility and incorporating it into its proposal once the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) issues a request for proposals sometime next year, Lockheed Martin believes the company will be better poised to win the contract, slated for award in 2013.

Intended to shoot down intermediate- to long-range ballistic missiles, the SM-3 Block 2B is a follow-on to the Raytheon-built SM-3 interceptor deployed on certain U.S. Navy ships. Operated in concert with the Lockheed Martin-built Aegis tracking and targeting system, the SM-3 has compiled a good track record in testing and is the basis for the MDA’s so-called Phased Adaptive Approach for defending Europe against ballistic missile attack.

The Phased Adaptive Approach initially relies on current ship-based SM-3 interceptors, land-based variants of which eventually would be installed on European soil. The SM-3 Block 2B, with the ability to engage missiles with ranges up to 12,000 kilometers, would play a key role in phase four of the approach, which the MDA hopes to implement by 2020.

Lockheed Martin is one of three companies competing to build the SM-3 Block 2B; the others are Boeing and incumbent Raytheon. All three companies since April have been designing their respective systems under MDA study contracts worth in the neighborhood of $43 million apiece.

Graham noted that Lockheed Martin is teaming with Raytheon for another MDA contract, to operate and maintain the Ground Based Midcourse system deployed for U.S. territorial defense. Incumbent Boeing is teamed with Northrop Grumman for the award, which Graham said is expected in November.