A "kill vehicle", which is designed to take out enemy missiles, has been successfully tested by the United States Military. Officials at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California were testing an "Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle," reports the Business Insider of India
. A target - designed to represent that of a missile - was launched from an Air Force plane over the Pacific Ocean, west of Hawaii. According to raytheon.com
"A kill vehicle is a state-of-the-art projectile that destroys long-range ballistic missiles outside the earth’s atmosphere using the sheer force of impact," and costs around $25 million (£17 million) to build. Once a threat is detected using one of multiple sensors, a Ground-Based Interceptor is then launched into space using a three-stage solid rocket booster. Outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, the EKV seeks out its target using multi-coloured sensors, and cutting-edge technology. Once honed in on its target, and with pinpoint precision, the target is obliterated using the force equivalent to that of a massive collision. This is known as the “hit to kill” process. The test was designed to demonstrate the core ability of manufacturer Raytheon's new "divert thrusters", a development that allows the maneuverability of the warhead. This development comes after a failure during testing procedures several years ago. In a statement announcing the trial
, Dr. Taylor W. Lawrence, president of Raytheon Missile Systems, said it “was a remarkable data-collection opportunity," "These are among our industry's most complex systems. Testing is critically important to ensuring the advancement of reliable kill vehicles for the protection of the U.S. homeland" Riki Ellison, founder of nonprofit Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, said its success would "provide confidence to our public, reliability to the NORTHCOM (U.S. Northern Command) commander and deterrence against North Korea,"
Raytheon is simultaneously managing four other important "kill vehicle" programs according to the Daily Mail
: the EKV, Standard Missile-3 kinetic vehicle, Redesigned Kill Vehicle, and Multi-Object Kill Vehicle. Later this year another interceptor will be sent to destroy an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) target armed with countermeasures for the very first time, followed in 2017 by two interceptors against a single ICBM. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are collectively working on different parts of a redesign currently scheduled for 2018, which will see improvements to the reliability of the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle. The United States are adding a further 14 interceptors in Alaska to the 30 they already have in place.