Lockheed Martin has validated the design of the subsystems it uses for the US Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) ground-based Next Generation Missile Interceptor with modern digital engineering tools.

The MDA designed the interceptor to protect the United States from intercontinental ballistic missile threats from adversarial states – a coveted missile defence system for a dangerous decade of tensions with countries such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

Through a series of successful and punctual Preliminary Design Reviews (PDR) of all NGI major subsystems, the American prime demonstrated it has achieved design maturity and reduced risk for critical technologies.

“During these reviews, [Lockheed Martin] took a modern and transparent approach through the use of advanced digital engineering and model-based engineering tools. Our interceptor team will continue on-plan to demonstrate our revolutionary NGI architecture, leveraging mature technologies for high mission confidence,” stated Sarah Reeves, Vice President of NGI at Lockheed Martin.

Digital and model-based engineering

The manufacturer demonstrates its work in the integrated digital tool chain to drive faster decision-making, enhance security, and enable rapid delivery and agility.

This “modern and transparent approach” to designing the interceptor relies on digital twin modelling, a method that allows engineers to design, troubleshoot and enhance concepts for systems. This risk-free method is a growing technique for defence companies trying to meet the new demands in the industry caused by the war in Ukraine and the US-China rivalry.

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MBDA UK is one European example, as it leverages its Digital Battlespace Facility, which has become fully operational this year.

A GlobalData report on Digital Twins (2020) suggests that this digital engineering solution is an evolving practice that is still at a formative stage: “To truly fulfill their potential, digital twins must quickly evolve into a meaningful construct and not just another technology concept in the broader Internet of Things.”

However, as it stands, Lockheed Martin’s interceptor programme is on track for its next major review, the All Up Round PDR. It has sped the process of research and development – eliminating the cost and time it takes to conduct real-world testing that is more than necessary.

During this next major review, the MDA will assess if the programme is ready to move forward in the acquisition process through Knowledge Point number one and ultimately on to the Critical Design Review. The first Lockheed Martin interceptor will be delivered to the MDA as early as 2027.