Today defending America, there are three variants of Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicles (EKVs) from succeeding generations of development on top of the current 44 Ground Based Interceptors (GBIs) deployed in Alaska and California. On March 25 this year, a combination of these EKVs were launched on a salvo of two GBIs and successfully intercepted an ICBM target under Director of Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) realistic conditions, proving a 97% reliability of the system today to defeat current and future North Korean ICBMs. The three generations of EKVs are the Capability Enhancement-I (CE-I) deployed first in 2004, CE-II deployed in 2008, and CE-II Block 1 Deployed in 2017 with the critical common component of the Inertial Measuring Unit (IMU) that enables the kill vehicle to know where it is in space to correctly place itself in the direct path of the nuclear payload in the reentry vehicle, for a 22,000 mph kinetic energy collision intercept in space. Adjustments and enhancements in hardware and software to the IMU is the key differentiator between each of the three progressive generations of EKVs.
The United States has been developing the next generation EKV for the GBI system to make it even more reliable, more efficient, and more effective. This system is called the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) and is scheduled to be placed on the upcoming additional 20 GBIs to be deployed by 2025. Last Friday, the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Michael Griffin, ordered a halt on work on the RKV to adjust the program in its technical engineering and capability to best develop a fourth generation capability to be deployed by 2025. Under Secretary Griffin is a known leader in missile defense technologies and acquisition reform that requires rapid development and shortening the current development to deployment times.
“This is a country that, from a concept on a piece of paper and an idea that had never been tried, a stealth aircraft, built and put on a ramp the first stealth aircraft thirty-two months after the contract is signed. It would take us thirty-two months today to hash out what the requirements would be.” – Micheal Griffin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering on August 8, 2018
The EKV is the critical and vital tip of a vast, in depth ballistic missile defense architecture and enterprise that has exponentially more investment than just the EKV, which includes multiple space, air, land, and sea sensor assets that are all fused together to provide the best intercept solution for the EKV to succeed. With this tremendous investment in the entirety of the ballistic missile defense architecture, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system is too important to the American public and their security not to have the best system we can develop, deploy, and make as close to 100% reliable as possible. Relying on just one solution for the tip assumes a lot of risk and does not fully exploit the full potential of the system as the nuclear ICBM threat to the United States will continue to be more menacing in intent, complexity and capacity. The United States has also been developing the Multi Object Kill Vehicle (MOKV), at a much lesser investment, for another tip on the GBI that could now potentially ramp up parallel to the current development that should provide two types of EKVs instead of just one for the future of the GBI fleet.
“Innovation can be messy and requires an element that can be contrary to our military culture: risk. To evolve at the speed of relevance, we must be ready to fail fast and learn from early failures. We must move quickly to ensure domination across all domains. No more fair fights!” – Pat Shanahan, Acting Secretary of Defense, on September 23, 2018
With this halt work order on the RKV, additional emphasis and opportunities will be placed on the Missile Defense Review (MDR) and its missile defense systems to fill the gap and provide a layered ICBM defense for the United States homeland. This will include boost-phase intercept (BPI) capabilities with F-35 air-to-air and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) sensors coupled with kinetic interceptors in the near future and directed energy on UAV platforms high in atmosphere in the more distant future. A homeland ICBM defense underlayer with existing missile defense systems of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA on land and sea, which both are inherently capable to intercept ICBM targets and will be tested against ICBM targets for validation. This will also include a space-based sensor layer constellation for persistent tracking and fire control solutions that would include defense against cruise and hypersonic glide as well as ballistic missile threats to the United States homeland.
We must sharpen the tips of our arrows, increase our range, quantity, accuracy, and the diversity of our spears we place those tips on.
Missile defense makes our nation safer.