EKV


“Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle” is arguably the most awesome name on record for a Pentagon program. Technologically, the Raytheon-built EKV is pretty impressive, able to hit an incoming missile head-on at over 15,000 miles per hour.

Some background: The Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle is the business end of the missile defense system now based in Alaska and California, the guided warhead that separates from the booster rocket to seek out and destroy enemy missiles in space (hence “exoatmospheric”) before they hit the US. On Monday, at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK, Raytheon executive Wes Kremer announced that the company had signed a new $636 million, seven-year contract to provide EKVs to Boeing, the lead contractor for ground-based missile defense. Keep reading →

Washington: The stress and strain of flying through outer space proved too much for a futuristic Pentagon weapon, causing it to fail a key test flight last December.

Pressure caused by “outer space-related dynamic environments” on the Missile Defense Agency’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) wreaked havoc on the weapon’s control system, causing it to fly off course moments before hitting its target, according to an MDA statement released today.

The EKV is a defensive weapon designed to take out enemy ballistic missiles in mid-flight. It is a key element in the Pentagon’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense program.

The weapon used during last December’s failed flight test was a more advanced version of the EKV already in place at missile defense locations in California and Alaska, according to the release.

During the test, a ballistic missile outfitted with an EKV, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., was supposed to knock out a dummy missile target launched from MDA’s test site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The EKV-equipped missile was on track to hit the target missile up until the final moments before impact, MDA officials explained. Right then, a “guidance error” in the EKV caused it to miss the target missile as both missiles flew through the upper reaches of outer space.

Both weapons ended up crashing somewhere in the Pacific ocean.

In the aftermath of the failed test, MDA engineers concluded that glitches in the EKV’s guidance system were not caused by design or “quality control” problems with the weapon itself. The guidance system failed because it could not withstand the space portion of the test flight, according to MDA.

Further study showed that the guidance system problems found on the test weapon did not affect the EKV’s currently in the continental United States, agency officials pointed out.

“Corrective design steps are being pursued and tested on the ground” to find out which aspects of the space flight damaged the weapon’s guidance system. Agency officials plan to begin a new round of testing by next spring, according to the statement. Keep reading →

Reaping the Benefits of a Global Defense Industry

Greg Sanders CSIS photo

  As the Defense Department’s budget goes down, the number of contracts awarded without competitive bids is going up. The share of contracts awarded without competition has risen from 39 percent in 2009 to 42 percent in 2012, according to a report I co-authored with Jesse Ellman and Rhys McCormick on DoD Contracting Trends. The news for… Keep reading →