Before anyone knew the Cold War was drawing to an unceremonious close, Ronald Reagan pushed for an orbiting missile defense system called “Star Wars” or the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), to protect the U.S. from Soviet nuclear missiles.
The idea of Mutually Assured Destruction, where the two superpowers would keep from annihilating each other only to prevent from being annihilated, failed to appeal to Reagan’s Hollywood sensibilities.
His idea, back in 1983, was to place satellites above the earth capable of shooting down missiles sent America‘s way with some sort of space based weapon. Laser, rail-gun, slingshot, it didn’t matter because the technology for achieving the goal was decades away.
Reagan didn’t care, and while his call to the nation’s scientists to build SDI may have helped in the demise of the Soviet Union, efforts at building Star Wars didn’t stop when the Cold War ended — it just took a while to put a system in place.
Raytheon has been working on a missile killer for years, and was first successful in its efforts back in 1999 when it scored its first Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) force of impact or ”hit-to-kill” engagement.
The dream of an orbiting missile defense interceptor system was scrapped, but EKVs are aboard about 30 ground-based interceptor missiles that have been deployed in Alaska and California beginning in 2004.
And a couple weeks ago the defense contractor signed a seven-year $636 million contract to provide the EKV to The Boeing Company, which is the prime contractor for the Missile Defense Agency’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program.
So now the EKV will be the centerpiece of the GMD as the intercept component of the Ground Based Interceptor (GBI), working to engage high-speed ballistic missile warheads in space.
Each EKV has an infrared seeker used to detect and discriminate the incoming warhead from other objects as well as its own propulsion, communications link, discrimination algorithms, guidance and control system and computers to support target selection and intercept.
The impact from the 18,000 mile-per-hour intercept packs enough kinetic punch to knock out the mightiest of ballistic missile’s and would do Reagan proud.
Below are a few pictures of what it looks like: