— With all of its major developmental programs already under contract, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) will spend a large portion of its $10.5 billion budget for 2009 on missile-interceptor procurement.

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system built by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis remains the agency’s most expensive program, with a 2009 budget of $2.1 billion. A large portion of that money will be spent on 19 ground-based interceptor missiles to be based in
, bringing the national total to 44 interceptors. Those likely will be the last ground-based interceptors to be purchased for the
United States
for the foreseeable future, former MDA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering, who retired Nov. 21, said in a Nov. 12 conference call.

The MDA also might be able to start silo construction for a ground-based interceptor site in
by the end of 2009 if the appropriate agreements are reached, Obering said. Congress appropriated $571 million for the European missile defense site, which also includes a radar site in the
Czech Republic
, with the condition that no money be spent until the Czech and Polish parliaments approve the plans, which they have not yet done.

The European site will use a new two-stage version of the ground-based interceptor, as opposed to the three-stage missiles in the
system. Obering said the first flight test of the two-stage interceptor will take place in 2009, followed by intercept tests in 2010 and 2012 before the missiles would be placed in
in 2012. The entire European system could be ready in 2014.

The agency also will purchase a large number of Standard Missile-3 interceptors used in the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system in 2009. Congress appropriated money for 100 of the missiles, produced by Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz., adding to the 33 currently in the nation’s operational inventory. Upgrades to the 18
ships to be outfitted with the system are scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

The 2009 budget also includes $1 billion for the land-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system built by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control of Dallas. Long-lead items for the third and fourth batteries in the system will be ordered by the end of this year and full contracts will be awarded in 2009, bringing the total number of interceptors in the program to 100, MDA spokesman Rick Lehner said via e-mail.

Meanwhile, work continues on the agency’s developmental programs. Boeing Integrated Defense Systems is on track for the first shoot-down test of its Airborne Laser program in 2009. Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., has been making headway on its Kinetic Energy Interceptor program, recently stringing together a series of successful static firings of the first- and second-stage boosters in preparation for the first booster flight test in summer 2009.

The agency’s Multiple Kill Vehicle program continues to move forward with development work on two different versions of the system, one by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., and another by Raytheon Missile Systems. There has been no decision on when the MDA will choose one company to begin production of the system, Lehner said.

The MDA also will spend $5 million this year on a space-based interceptor feasibility study, something Obering said was worth looking into.

“This will open a debate on space-based missile defense,” he said. “I think it allows you to meet emerging threats by providing flexibility geographically and an additional basing mode. But there are negatives such as the cost.”