Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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US to Destroy ICBM with Kill Vehicle in Warning to North Korea


(Photo : Raytheon) EKV from Raytheon.

The United States on May 30 will demonstrate its capability before the world to destroy an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a warning to North Korea, and also to Russia and China.

Military sources said the goal of the first test of its kind is to more closely simulate a North Korean ICBM aimed at the continental United States. 

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The weapon to be used in this near space intercept will be the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle or EKV.

An EKV is launched by a Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) missile, the launch vehicle operated by the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GBAD) System. It's boosted to an intercept trajectory by the GBI missile.

It then separates from the missile and autonomously collides with an incoming warhead.

EKV, however, is saddled with accuracy problems and had a string of test failures in 2016. In all, the EKV has succeeded in destroying only nine of 17 targets since 1999, a success rate of only 53 percent.

This problem-plagued kill vehicle is due to be replaced by the new Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV). The U.S. plans to field the RKV around 2020 and conduct an intercept test for this kill vehicle in 2019.

A failure for the EKV on May 30 will embolden North Korea to continue work on developing its first ICBM capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to targets in the U.S. A success, however, just might give North Korea pause.

The U.S. is showing a combination of irritation and concern at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's persistence in developing an ICBM capable of being armed with a nuclear warhead. Pentagon officials say Kim has ordered his scientists to accelerate the development of a nuclear-armed ICBM.

Kim will eventually succeed if "left unchecked," said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Both the RKV and EKV are ground-based interceptors for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency designed to defend the U.S. mainland against ICBM attacks.

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