Interceptors and Targets

Interceptors and Targets

Defending against long-range ballistic missile attacks.

Providing Proven, Reliable Interceptors and Target Rockets

Building on our heritage of providing reliable launch vehicles, Northrop Grumman is a leading provider of interceptors and targets used in the test and verification of the nation's missile defense systems and interceptor boosters employed in the defense of the homeland against long-range ballistic missile attacks.

Ballistic Missile Targets

Northrop Grumman designs and produces target launch vehicles used in the development and testing of missile defense systems. The company's target launch vehicles include suborbital rockets and their principal subsystems, as well as payloads carried by such vehicles. Various branches and agencies of the U.S. military, including the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), use Northrop Grumman's target launch vehicles as targets for defense-related applications such as ballistic missile interceptor testing and related experiments.

These rockets are programmed to simulate incoming enemy missiles, offering an affordable and reliable means to test advanced missile defense systems. Northrop Grumman's family of target vehicles extends from long-range ballistic target launch vehicles, which include targets for testing MDA's Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, to medium- and short-range target vehicles designed to simulate threats to U.S. and allied military forces deployed in overseas theaters.

Workers in factory setting working on missile laying horizontal in the hanger. American flag hanging in the background

GMD Boosters

Under a contract from The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman is the sole supplier of Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) boosters for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program, the first and only operationally deployed missile defense system to defend the homeland against long-range ballistic missile attacks. The GMD system is designed to intercept and destroy hostile ballistic missiles in their midcourse phase of flight before they reenter the Earth's atmosphere.

Northrop Grumman is responsible for the design, development and testing of the Orbital Boost Vehicle (OBV) for the GBI, a silo-launched, three-stage rocket derived from our proven Pegasus, Taurus and Minotaur space launch vehicles. The OBV is designed to deliver the Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) to precise trajectories necessary to intercept the threat. The OBV has successfully conducted multiple test flights and has been deployed in silos in Alaska and California.

GQM-163A “Coyote” Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target

Northrop Grumman is applying its proven design philosophy of high performance, low-cost and off-the-shelf technology to supersonic sea-skimming targets for the U.S. Navy. The GQM-163A “Coyote” design integrates a solid-fuel, air-breathing ducted rocket propulsion system into a compact missile airframe18 feet long and 14 inches in diameter. Launched from Navy test and training ranges, this high-performance vehicle achieves speeds over Mach 2.5 while flying 15 feet above the ocean's surface and weaving with 10g acceleration. In addition to the sea-skimming trajectory, Northrop Grumman has also fielded a “high diver” variant which achieves altitudes over 50,000 feet before pouncing on its target at near hypersonic speed.

For user flexibility, the GQM-163A target is now operationally capable at four different launch test sites around the world. Because of its unique capabilities, GQM-163A launches have been conducted for several foreign customers in addition to the U.S. Navy.

Ballistic missile target

Missile Defense Programs

  • Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missle (IRBM) – Air-launched Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile targets based on technologies from our proven Pegasus space launch vehicle
  • Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) – Ground-launched variant of our IRBM target to simulate long-range ICBM threats
  • Additional ballistic targets simulating medium and short-range threats