Science

US to Destroy One ICBM with Two EKVs in New Test Set for 2018

By | Jun 02, 2017 11:23 PM EDT
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Hitting a bullet with a bullet

Intercept and destruction of an ICBM target on May 30. (Photo : MDA)

The United States will follow-up its successful interception and destruction of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last May 30 with another test scheduled for 2018.

This forthcoming test will double the cost of the May 30 intercept, which the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) revealed came to $244 million. The May 30 was intended to send a message to North Korea the U.S. has the weapons to destroy the north's ballistic missiles.

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The U.S. called this success a "critical milestone" in the development of its anti-ballistic missile defenses.

A higher bill is expected for the next intercept test because the MDA will launch two Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) missiles simultaneously at an incoming dummy warhead in a "real world" test.

"We want to exercise the GMD (ground-based missile defense) system with more than one interceptor to gather data," said Vice Admiral James Syring, MDA Director.

Launching two GBIs at one incoming ICBM target will help MDA understand what the second one does after the first destroys the target, said Adm. Syring.

This test is "the next step in ever increasing operational realism."

The intercept on May 30 saw an "ICBM-class target" fired toward the U. S. mainland from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands destroyed over the Pacific Ocean by an "Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle" (EKV) in a test meant to demonstrate the effectiveness of U.S. anti-ballistic missile defenses.

The target fired from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, 6,600 km from the mainland was "successfully intercepted" at 3:30 p.m. ET by a GBI launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The GBI consists of the boost vehicle (or the rocket itself) and the EKV. The U.S. has 44 GBIs available for action.

EKV is saddled with accuracy problems and posted 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.

The successful intercept of May 30 raises EKV's success rate to 56 percent, or 10 successes in 18 tests.


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