Ground-based Midcourse Defense

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 GMD program is projected to cost a total of $41 billion.

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 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.

Interceptors 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 DoD plans to increase its GBI inventory from 30 to 44 by 2017. Of the 30 deployed GBIs, 20 are equipped with the Capability Enhancement-I EKV, while the remaining 10 carry the improved EKV Capability Enhancement-II EKV.

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. The 49th Missile Defense Battalion at Fort Greely and the 100th Missile Defense Brigade at MDIOC operate the GMD systems.

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.

Apart from Boeing, the GMD industry team consists of Raytheon (Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle + SBX radar), Northrop Grumman (BMC2), Orbital Sciences Corp. (booster vehicles), Bechtel (facilities design and construction), and Teledyne Technologies (integrated systems testing capabilities and technical services). Also, Aerojet provides liquid propulsion divert and attitude control propulsion systems for the GBI. In July 2012, Raytheon was awarded a $636 million contract to provide Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicles for GMD. The contract extends through November 2018 and includes EKV development, fielding, testing, system engineering, integration, configuration management, equipment manufacturing, and operation and sustainment.

Ground and flight testing has demonstrated the GMD system's ability to intercept long-range ballistic missile targets. As of June 2014, the GMD system has recorded 9 successful intercepts in 16 flight tests since 2001. 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 Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) carrying a next-generation Capability Enhancement-II EKV. The test measured the EKV's performance and data gathered during the test has been used to validate the new EKV's design. 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. The target was launched from the Ronald Reagan BMD Test Site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands and, with tracking data from the Sea-based X-band Radar and the AEGIS AN/SPY-1 radar, ship-based military operators launched the GBI from Vandenberg AFB. The test also marked the first successful intercept by Raytheon's Capability Enhancement-II EKV. Following the successful test, Raytheon announced in September 2014 that it had resumed production of EKVs.

Price/Unit Cost:

The unit cost of the GBI is $75 million.


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 2014 DoD Program:

FY 2014 provides $910.9 million to continue the development and sustainment of the GMD weapon system. Continues flight testing to support the Integrated Master Test Plan (IMTP) requirements. Continues development and manufacturing of GBIs. Continues the Stockpile Reliability Program (SRP) and component aging testing in order to understand the health of the deployed assets. Initiates the rebuild and High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) harden Missile Field I at Fort Greely, Alaska.

FY 2015 DoD Program:

FY 2015 provides $1,003.8 million to continue the development and sustainment of the GMD weapon system, which includes the planned deployment of 40 GBIs at Fort Greely, AK, and 4 GBIs at Vandenberg AFB, CA by FY 2017. Continues flight testing to support the Integrated Master Test Plan (IMTP) requirements. Continues the Stockpile Reliability Program (SRP) and component aging testing in order to understand the health of the deployed assets. Continues software development, testing, and deployment for the fire control and kill vehicles to improved discrimination capabilities. Initiates the redesign of the GMD exo-atmospheric kill vehicle for improved reliability, availability, performance, and producibility.

For more information, click to see the FY 2015 GMD RDT&E budget.

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

Specifications DoD Spending FY2015 Budget

Last Update: December 15, 2014.

By Joakim Kasper Oestergaard Balle /// (

External Resources:

Boeing: Ground-based Midcourse Defense
Northrop Grumman: Ground-based Midcourse Defense
Missile Defense Agency: Ground-based Midcourse Defense Raytheon: Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV)
Raytheon: Sea-Based X-band radar (SBX)

Missile Defense Agency (MDA): GMD Photos & Videos
YouTube: GMD | YouTube Videos

Fact Sheet: Boeing | GMD Fact Sheet
Fact Sheet: Northrop Grumman | GMD Fact Sheet
Fact Sheet: Missile Defense Agency | GMD Fact Sheet

GMD U.S. Defense Budget Charts:

DoD Spending on the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) Program in FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014 and FY 2015
DoD Purchases of GMD Interceptors in FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014 and FY 2015
Defense Budget Data

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DoD Spending, Procurement and RDT&E: FY 2011/12/13 + Budget for FYs 2014 + 2015

DoD Defense Spending, Procurement, Modifications, Spares, and RDT&E for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense Program

Download Official U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Budget Data:

GMD RDT&E Budget (MDA)

Specifications: Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD)

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Missile Specifications | Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI)

Primary Function: Hit-to-kill missile
Prime Contractor: Raytheon Company
Propulsion: Orbital Sciences three-stage solid fuel GBI booster vehicles
+ Aerojet liquid propulsion divert and attitude control propulsion systems.
Length: ft in ( m)
Diameter: in ( cm)
Weight: lbs ( kg)
Speed: 15,000 mph (24,000 km/h)
Range: nm/ miles ( km)
Ceiling: miles ( km)
Guidance System: Unknown
Warhead: None. Uses the kinetic energy from impact with the interceptor's
152 lbs (69 kg) Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicle (made by Raytheon).
Platforms: Fired from missile silos.
Price/Unit Cost: Approx. $75 million
Initial Operational Capability (IOC): TBD

Defense Program

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