First line of defense against ballistic missiles

Kill vehicles destroy long-range ballistic missiles in space. Launched atop missiles, kill vehicles use sensors, lenses and rocket thrusters to pick out warheads and steer into their paths.

Raytheon Missiles & Defense has decades of experience building kill vehicles, along with the world’s premier laboratories, factories and workforce for these specialized weapon systems. It is the only company in the world working on three different kill vehicle programs at the same time, and its experts are revolutionizing the role kill vehicles play in missile defense.

Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle

The Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle defends the United States against long-range ballistic missiles by destroying them while they are still in space. Also known as EKV, the kinetic-force weapon is the intercept component of the Ground-Based Interceptor and part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System.

In 2019, that system hit an intercontinental ballistic missile target in its first dual-salvo test, which reflected a real-world scenario. One EKV intercepted the target and the other gathered data. The system recorded its first-ever intercept of an ICBM in 2017, destroying its target in a Missile Defense Agency test over the Pacific Ocean.

When the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System tracks a threat with its land, sea or space sensors, it launches a Ground-Based Interceptor, which uses its three-stage solid rocket booster to fly out of Earth's atmosphere at near-hypersonic speeds. Once it has exited the atmosphere, the kill vehicle's job begins.

The EKV seeks out its target using multi-color sensors, a cutting-edge onboard computer and a rocket motor that helps it steer in space. It guides to the target and, with pinpoint precision, destroys it using nothing more than the force of a massive collision. No traditional warhead is necessary.

Standard Missile-3

The SM-3® interceptor is a defensive weapon used by the U.S. Navy to destroy short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. This “hit-to-kill” interceptor uses a kinetic warhead to collide with targets in space, far above population centers below.

The SM-3 program is a critical piece of the Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense in Europe. The newest IIA variant features a larger, more sophisticated kinetic warhead.

The EKV and SM-3 vehicles have a combined record of 40 successful intercepts in space.