Missile defense now and into the future

An interview with Tay Fitzgerald, president of Strategic Missile Defense for Raytheon Missiles & Defense

When Tay Fitzgerald recently spoke with Mike Gruss, editor-in-chief of Defense News, they focused on “the current state of missile defense, emerging threats in the near future and the long-term needs for effective space and missile defense” especially in light of recent world events.

Key points they examined in the Defense News webcast include:

  • What the rise of adversaries’ use of cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, drones and advanced technology, like hypersonic missiles, means for strategic missile defense.
  • The importance of U.S. Department of Defense advancements in hypersonic capabilities, such as the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept, or HAWC, and counter-hypersonic weapons, such as the Glide Phase Interceptor, or GPI.
  • How Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a business of Raytheon Technologies, supports regional and global defense.

Here are some highlights from Fitzgerald’s conversation with Gruss:

Defense News: What have we learned over the last 12 months about the needs for missile defense?

Tay Fitzgerald: So much has really changed since last year. With the activities in Ukraine, we've seen cruise missiles launch, we've seen ballistic missiles launch, we've seen drone activity, and we've even seen hypersonic missiles used in theater.

That’s all on the negative, challenging side. But on the flip side, a lot of great progress has been made, too. We're seeing a lot of technical progress relative to hypersonics, which is also in our threat set, and also in terms of counter-hypersonics and the Department of Defense progress in the hypersonic space.

So, I think there’s been a lot of activity that confirmed some of our previous fears, but we’ve also seen a lot of great activity and technical advancements to confront those threats.

Defense News: You brought up Ukraine. Obviously, missile defense has been core to the discussion there. What are some of the ways that the conflict in Ukraine has changed, or is changing, the way people think about the needs for missile defense, not just in Ukraine or Europe, but worldwide? And how is Raytheon Technologies thinking about some of these problems?

Tay Fitzgerald: The activity in Ukraine has definitely focused a lot of attention on conventional warfare again—some of our more traditional weapons—but that's not a big surprise to us. We've been saying for some time that there's a need to focus on the threat today, because the threat's been very real, and also not to lose our focus on the threats of tomorrow.

There's obviously a lot of attention on capabilities that we have ready today. At Raytheon Missiles & Defense, we've got SPY-6 and TPY-2 from a sensing standpoint. We've got the standard missile family of interceptors, including SM-6 and SM-3. We have a lot of great capability today.

But we can't lose focus on tomorrow. That puts a lot of attention on the Next Generation Interceptor, or NGI, and Glide Phase Interceptor, or GPI—and the architectures that the Missile Defense Agency has been so diligently working on to get fielded in very short order.

Defense News: Not wanting to lose sight of the long term, how do you look at the short- and medium-term outlook? And what are some of the top priorities there?

Tay Fitzgerald: I think one of the top priorities that we absolutely can't lose sight of is defense of Guam. It is not only critical to tensions in the world today, but it's also going to be a blueprint for our architectures going forward in other parts of the world.

RMD has a lot of capability that can be fielded relative to defense of Guam today: our Standard Missile family, SPY-6 and TPY-2. But those architectures are going to have to be scalable. We're going to have to be able to evolve those architectures for the more advanced threats that we see coming.

Right behind defense of Guam, I think we've got to focus on counter-hypersonic capability. We've seen pretty impressive hypersonic threats launched within the last year from multiple countries.

So, we have to make sure that we burn down any risk we have in our current counter-hypersonic capability. We know we have terminal capability with SM-6. SM-3 is a foundation for pretty short-term capability beyond terminal, and we've got to be able to evolve that as the threat evolves. And then today, relative to ballistic missiles, RMD has good capability with our ground-based interceptor, the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, or EKV.

But as, our adversaries continue to get more and more sophisticated with their threats, we've got to be ready for those in the out years—the out years not being that far away. And for that, the Missile Defense Agency has the NGI program, in which we're partnered with Northrop Grumman, to be ready for those threats in the future.

We’ve edited this interview for brevity and clarity. The full conversation is available on the Defense News website here.