Tallying Successful Space Intercepts
MONS Correspondent Marty Kauchak files this end-of-the-day report from the Space and Missile Defense (SMD) Symposium, Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Raytheon is simultaneously managing four kill vehicle programmes – the EKV (Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle), Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) kinetic vehicle, Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) and Multi-Object Kill Vehicle (MOKV).
According to Mitch Stevison, PhD, vice president of Raytheon Air and Missile Defense Systems, “the Raytheon kill vehicle family has a combined record of more than 40 successful space intercepts.”
Most recently, the EKV, in its latest version, Capability Enhancement (CE)-II, successfully destroyed an intercontinental ballistic missile in a test this 30 May.
In the maritime domain, the latest variant of the SM-3 fired this February from USS “John Paul Jones” (DDG-53), intercepted a ballistic missile threat, demonstrating its enhanced capabilities to defeat short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. Stevison added: “The SM-3 Block IIA programme continues to reflect MDA’s [US Missile Defense Agency] commitment to maturing this regional ballistic missile defence capability. The test success keeps the programme on track for deployment at sea and ashore in the 2018 timeframe.”
Stevison’s reference to “ashore” is European Phased Adaptive Approach Phase III, which will conceptually improve defensive coverage against medium- and intermediate-range threats with the deployment of a second AEGIS Ashore site in Poland, and the delivery of the upgraded SM-3 Block IIA and the associated AEGIS BMD weapon system, for AEGIS BMD ships and AEGIS Ashore sites.
Further, the SM-3 IIA’s kinetic warhead has been enhanced to best address advanced and emerging threats, with improvements to the search, discrimination, acquisition and tracking functions. The kinetic warhead, along with larger rocket motors, allows SM-3 Block IIA to engage more sophisticated threats and protect larger regions from short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats, providing greater operational flexibility.
Beyond SM-3 IIA, “the RKV programme held its preliminary design review (PDR) in March of this year,” the Raytheon programme executive reported.
RKV is the newest member of Raytheon’s highly sophisticated “kill vehicle” systems family. Stevison noted: “The kill vehicles use multi-color sensors, an onboard computer and a rocket motor to steer in space, hone in on targets and destroy them using nothing more than the force of collision. The detailed PDR assessment keeps the MDA on track to deliver the US more powerful, more reliable protection against intercontinental ballistic missiles.”
Stevison further pointed out the RKV takes “massive steps” forward in kill vehicle technology and provides many significant improvements over the currently fielded system. He explained: “The RKV will have improved demonstrated reliability through comprehensive systems engineering. Its modular design will be much more producible, boasting a reduced part count and full qualification program. The manufacturing process steps are reduced by 70% with the RKV. Survivability requirements are incorporated into the RKV design, and it has an ‘on-demand’ communications capability with the GMD, enabling improved threat handover, discrimination capability and situational awareness.”
The RKV also has kill vehicle-to-kill vehicle communications, which improves the overall system performance in a raid environment.
Contractually for RKV, Boeing is the prime contractor to MDA and Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are major suppliers to Boeing. Stevison emphasised Raytheon is the kill vehicle integrator, with greater than 50% of the RKV programme workshare. “Raytheon will deliver fully assembled and tested RKV payloads to Boeing for integration with the GBI [Ground-Based Interceptor] for several flight tests and operational units as part of the development contract. The Raytheon Space Factory will be the primary integration, assembly and test facility for the RKV during development and would be the expected location for the production contract,” he noted.
Raytheon builds current kill vehicles in its Space Factory on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona. A recent Raytheon-funded expansion of the one-of-a-kind factory added nearly 10,000 square feet to support the incoming RKV and future production needs.
The RKV programme is advancing via a Technical Instruction (TI) contract vehicle and has successfully completed its System Requirements Review and Preliminary Design Review under the TI. Stevison recalled the MDA recently awarded the RKV development completion contract to Boeing utilising an Undefinitized Contract Authorization, and Raytheon recently received its contract from Boeing to enter the next stage.
The MDA’s fiscal year (FY) 2018 programme delays fielding of RKV until 2022. MOKV will conceptually allow a single interceptor to carry several hit-to-kill payloads instead of one EKV or RKV. Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin were awarded contracts to develop and prototype their MOKV concepts. For its part, Raytheon is developing a future system solution for the MOKV that makes use of the company’s domain expertise across the entire “kill chain” – from sensors to shooters. “We are leveraging our experience and lessons learned from more than five generations of exo-atmospheric kill vehicle development to provide an MOKV payload that negates current and future threats while maximising magazine depth for the warfighter,” Stevison added.
For MOKV, Raytheon will be building technology prototype hardware and software in accordance with the Technology Risk Reduction contract to demonstrate capabilities. MDA’s FY 2018 programme brings forward deployment of the MOKV from 2029-2030 to 2025.