The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) on April 7 awarded contracts totaling $127 million to three firms for trade studies and initial designs for a new interceptor intended to defeat long-range missiles, according to a Pentagon announcement.

Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., received a $43.3 million study contract for the new Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block 2B interceptor; Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $42.7 million contract; and Boeing Defense, Space & Security of St. Louis was awarded a $41.2 million contract.

The SM-3 Block 2B interceptor is planned to be deployed in 2020 as one of the later elements of the United States’ so-called Phased Adaptive Approach for European missile defense. It will be designed to destroy long-range ballistic missiles — with ranges of up to 12,000 kilometers — in the early stages of flight.

Raytheon is the incumbent contractor, having developed the SM-3 Block 1A interceptors that are deployed today on U.S. Navy ships and the more capable SM-3 Block 1B interceptors that are expected to begin flight testing this summer. Raytheon also is the prime contractor for the larger SM-3 Block 2A interceptor that the United States and Japan are co-developing.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems of Los Angeles was the only other firm that bid for the SM-3 Block 2B study contracts.