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Raytheon developing missile-ramming Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle


July 22, 2012

The EKV is the 21st century equivalent of hitting a bullet with a bullet

The EKV is the 21st century equivalent of hitting a bullet with a bullet

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If you visit the Blue & Gray Museum in Decatur, Alabama, you’ll see a remarkable curiosity – two bullets that collided in midair during a battle in the American Civil War. What does this have to do with ballistic missile defense in the 21st century? Everything, because that's exactly what the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) being developed as part of the American Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) missile defense system is intended to do – destroy high-speed ballistic missile warheads in flight by hitting them head on.

The EKV is a sophisticated suborbital payload filled with sensors and rocket motors that is intended to detect and intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile at the edge of space at hypersonic speeds. It’s a tricky proposition, but one advantage of the EKV is that the very velocities that make hitting one missile with another so difficult also means that, if the EKV manages it, the speed of impact is so great (22,000 mph/10 km/s) that no warhead is needed to destroy the target.

The Raytheon EKV isn’t very large. It weighs only 140 lb (64 kg), is 55 inches (1.4 m) tall and has a diameter of 24 inches (0.6 m). However, it does pack quite a bit into a small package. It has advanced multi-color sensors to detect warheads, ground communications systems and a sophisticated onboard computer for target selection and calculating intercept courses. It even has its own rocket motors, though these are used only for steering as the EKV is launched by the Ground Based Interceptor missile.

Though it’s still under development, the EKV has already been deployed and in testing has carried out eight successful intercepts. U.S. defense contractor Raytheon has now been awarded a US$636 million development and sustainment contract by the U.S. government to further development and testing of systems, manufacturing and deployment of the EKV, and operational costs. Raytheon is contracted to supply the EKV to Boeing, the primary contractor on the program.

Source: Raytheon

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

Very cool. Now missile manufacturers will program their missiles so they avoid the interceptor. Let robot wars begin.

Paul van Dinther

No, they will develop systems similar to what ships now use in their last-option defense against missile attacks, guns capable of shooting bullets at such a high rate that, effectively, a 'lead curtain' is created which destroys the incoming threat. A miniature version could do the same and at 10 km/s the metal curtain would pulverise any incoming kinetic kill vehicle, allowing the warhead to do it's thing.


The bad thing is if it works on a nuclear warhead, the missile track will be showered with plutonium or enriched uranium.


Some video of Lockheed Martin's version. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9mNNA2gEF8

I once saw a longer video of it doing other maneuvers, including rolls, called out by a person as they were performed.

Gregg Eshelman

The EKV is a sophisticated suborbital payload filled with sensors and rocket motors that is intended to detect and intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile at the edge of space at hypersonic speeds. Nothing new. Looks like they are borrowing proven technology from our "Star Wars" project that Pres. Clinton cancelled more than 15 years ago.

In March 1983, President Reagan unveiled a new vision of national security based on protecting lives rather than threatening them. This announcement kicked off the Strategic Defense Initiative-popularly known as Star Wars that invigorated weapons work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The crowning achievement of the Strategic Defense Initiative was "Brilliant Pebbles". These orbiting satellites were to watch for enemy ICBMs to enter Earth's upper atmosphere, automatically calculate a trajectory course then launch itself with on-board rockets to intercept, collide and destroy without any munitions. On command, a global constellation of these nonnuclear spacecraft could detect and destroy missiles without any external help. ICBMs were not and are not agile nor immune to collisions in near space. If the first rocket propelled satellite smaller than an office desk failed to collide with the ICBM, dozens of other watching orbiters would. We were well on our way towards achieving that goal for 1/100 of the cost that NASA required when this idiot president stepped in.

Choose wisely DemonDuck between a shower of radiated particles in space or a multi-megaton explosion over your head.


If the opposition has to replace all of their missiles to work around the interceptor, the interceptor was successful.

Jon A.

Why not have the interceptor deploy a cloud of evenly spaced tungsten balls,each spaced less than the diameter of the target, as it closed on the target? That would make intercepts much easier.They used the same principle late in WW2 with an anti-submarine weapon called the Hedgehog.It launched a bunch of depth bombs spaced less than the diameter of the hull of the sub in an oval pattern.If the sub was anywhere within the oval,at least one depth bomb would have hit it.


re; bas

Your anti antimissile system is very heavy thereby reducing the number and size of warheads carried so even if the anti-antimissile system works the antimissile system has reduced the damage inflicted by the offensive missile.


Proven STAR WARS technology is rather a stretch. As I remember, three Peaceful Multi Billion Projects failed soon after launch. Space is still an experiment and when you send it up it just may land in your back yard.

Frank Villa

If they ever use these on a strategic level, we may be saved from incoming warheads... but we can say goodbye to any beneficial use of Low Earth Orbit. Goodbye GPS, for starts. We NEED more trash orbiting our planet.

John Hagen-Brenner

re; John Hagen-Brenner

First loosing use of space for a time is a cheap price to pay for stopping nuclear missiles. Second given that they are going in opposite directions a majority of the debris will be at less than orbital velocities and the debris that has orbital velocity will be in highly eccentric orbits that will be rapidly decaying because of the atmospheric drag incontered in the low portion of the orbit.


A little benefit analysis might be in order. Nuclear weapon exploding in a neighborhood near you vs. a little radioactive material in a suborbital path. Remember two things the fusion explosion (which won't happen) is the biggest potion of the threat, and ICBM's are ballistic weapons i.e. they are suborbital and can't remain in orbit. I'm having a hard time finding the down side.

Dave C
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