US Missile Defense Agency, in partnership with the Boeing-led industry team, tested two Raytheon exoatmospheric kill vehicles (EKV) against a single ICBM-type target yesterday.
CAPTION: SM-3’s exoatmospheric kill vehicle collides with its target with the genetic equivalent of a 10-ton truck traveling at 600 mph – negating the need for an explosive warhead. Raytheon image.
The first EKV successfully took out the target, leaving the other to gather test data, in what is known as a ‘two-shot salvo’ engagement.
The demonstration was part of a test of the US Ground-based Midcourse Defense System (GMD).
The EKV system is designed to protect the US against long-range ballistic missile attacks by destroying incoming threats safely outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
This historic test mirrored a real-life scenario where launching more than one interceptor ensured destruction of the threat far away from population centres – if the first kill vehicle makes impact, the second can divert to another task.
Raytheon Missile Systems president Taylor Lawrence said the system was among the most complex, and served as the first line of ballistic-missile defence for the United States.
After receiving tracking and targeting data from Raytheon’s Sea-Based X-band radar and AN/TPY-2 radar, the EKV identified the threat, discriminated between the target and countermeasures, maneuverer into the target’s path and destroyed it using ‘hit-to-kill’ technology.
This was the eleventh intercept for the GMD program overall, and the second intercept of an ICBM.
Raytheon’s kill-vehicle family has a combined record of more than 40 successful space intercepts.