Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD)

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Product Type:

Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS)

Using Service (US):

JOINT - Missile Defense Agency (MDA)

Program Status:

In Development and Integration Phase

Prime Contractor:

Systems Integration: The Boeing Company
EKV Interceptor: Raytheon Company

GMD Missile Launch

About the GMD System:

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element is a Missile Defense Agency (MDA) program and a key component of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS), providing combatant commanders with the ability to engage ballistic missiles in the midcourse phase of flight.

The midcourse phase begins when the enemy missile's booster burns out and it begins coasting in space towards its target. This phase, compared to boost or terminal, allows significant time for sensor viewing from multiple platforms. The midcourse phase can last as long as 20 minutes, which provides multiple engagement opportunities for hit-to-kill interceptors to destroy the incoming ballistic missile outside the atmosphere. Any debris remaining after the intercept will burn up when entering the atmosphere. GMD is in many ways similar to THAAD, which is a BMD system designed to intercept ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of flight.

The GMD concept has been in development since 1998 and is based on technologies pioneered by the MDA in the 1980s and 1990s. Boeing leads the industry team in the development, deployment, integration and testing of the GMD weapon system, building on the company's experience supporting the MDA. As the prime contractor and systems integrator for the GMD program since 2001, Boeing develops, integrates, tests, deploys, and sustains the GMD components. In December 2011, the MDA awarded the Boeing and Northrop Grumman team a $3.48 billion development and sustainment contract for future work on the GMD program through 2018. The Boeing-Northrop Grumman team was selected over the Lockheed Martin-Raytheon team.

The Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) is made up of a three-stage, solid fuel booster and an Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV). When launched, the booster missile carries the kill vehicle toward the target's predicted location in space. Once released from the booster, the 152 pound (69 kg) EKV uses data received in-flight from ground-based radars and its own on-board sensors to hit the incoming missile directly by ramming the warhead with a closing speed of approximately 15,000 mph (24,000 km/h).

A key component of GMD, the Sea-Based X-Band (SBX) radar is a midcourse fire control sensor. For siting flexibility, the radar is installed on a re-locatable semi-submersible platform. The radar performs cued acquisition, target tracking, discrimination, and engagement hit assessment.

GMD is under the command of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and is operated by Soldiers from the 100th Missile Defense Brigade headquartered at Colorado Springs, Colorado, and its 49th Missile Defense Battalion at Fort Greely, Alaska. GBIs are currently deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB), California. There are 30 operationally deployed GBIs located at Fort Greely (26) and Vandenberg AFB (4). The MDA will increase its GBI inventory from 30 to 44 by late 2017.

The GMD Fire Control System consists of fire control nodes at Fort Greely and at the Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center (MDIOC) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. All GMD components communicate through the GMD communications network, a secure data and voice communications system using both satellite communications (SATCOM) and a 20,000-mile fiber-optic communications network that interfaces with BMD radars and other sensors.

Apart from Boeing, the GMD industry team consists of Raytheon (Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle + SBX radar), Northrop Grumman (BMC2), Orbital ATK (GBI booster vehicles), Bechtel (facilities design and construction), and Teledyne Technologies (integrated systems testing capabilities and technical services). Also, Aerojet Rocketdyne provides liquid propulsion divert and attitude control propulsion systems for the GBI.

Ground and flight testing has demonstrated the GMD system's ability to intercept long-range ballistic missile targets. GMD flight testing was halted in early 2011 following two failed intercepts with the Capability Enhancement-II EKV in 2010. After two years, testing was resumed on January 26, 2013, at Vandenberg AFB with the launch of a GBI carrying a next-generation Capability Enhancement-II EKV. On July 5, 2013, in the first intercept test since 2010, the GMD's Capability Enhancement-I EKV failed to hit and destroy the ballistic missile target. This was the third consecutive unsuccessful GMD intercept test. On June 22, 2014, in a complex test over the Pacific Ocean, the MDA and the GMD industry team successfully intercepted and destroyed a Lockheed Martin LV-2 ballistic missile target in flight. The MDA last successfully conducted a similar test in 2008.

Due to persisting issues with the Raytheon-built EKV, the MDA is leading an effort to develop a Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV), which is expected to be deployed in the 2022 timeframe. The RKV contractor has not yet been selected.


The GMD provides combatant commanders with the capability to defend the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, against long range ballistic missiles during the midcourse phase of flight.

FY 2020 & FY 2021 - GMD DoD Program:

This data is available in Forecast International's U.S. Defense Budget Forecast, a comprehensive analytical database containing historical and forecast budget figures, year-to-year funding comparisons, congressional budget markups, program justification documents, and much more.

Sources Used: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Missile Defense Agency (MDA),
The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

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