EKVs, RKVs, CKVs, MOKVs and More. (April 26, 2015)

There have been at least as many acronyms and designations assigned to current, past and future kill vehicles of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) national missile defense system as there have been successful intercept tests of such kill vehicles.  Below I summarize the most important of these kill vehicle designations.

EKV CE-0: This designation covers the kill vehicles used in the first seven GMD intercept tests, from 1999 to 2002, as well as the IFT-1a and IFT-2 fly-by tests in 1998-99.  The first, and so far only, place I have seen this designation is on the slides used by MDA Director Admiral Syring during his August 13 presentation at the 2014 Space and Missile Defense Conference.  (These slides were obtained via FOIA by Laura Grego of the Union of Concerned Scientists.)  These kill vehicles are sometimes referred to as “prototypes” although this term is sometimes also used for the later CE-I and CE-II kill vehicles as well.  The “CE” stands for Capability Enhancement, so the CE-0 designation seems to be both a retroactive designation as well as a catch-all for all the early GMD kill vehicles, as indicated by its use for both the fly-by tests, which used two completely different competing kill vehicle designs.

EKV CE-0+:  This designation was also used by Admiral Syring in his SMDC presentation.  It is not clear (at least to me) how this version of the kill vehicle differed from its CE-0 predecessor.  In any event, this version of the EKV has never left Earth’s atmosphere.  It was only used in two intercept tests (IFT-13c in 2004 and IFT-14 in 2005) and in both of these tests the interceptor failed to launch.

EKV CE-1:   The Capability Enhancement – 1 (CE-I) was the initial production version of the EKV.  CE-I EKVs were first delivered and deployed in 2004, and deliveries and deployments continued until September 2007.  The number of deployed CE-1 GBIs peaked at twenty four in September 2007, although some of these deployed CE-Is have since been replaced by newer CE-II equipped GBIs.  A total of 33 CE-I equipped GBIs were produced, with six of these expended in flight or intercept tests so far.  The CE-I differs from the last CE-0s in at least some connector upgrades that were made to address obsolescence problems.  Other changes were made to the CE-I EKV as problems with it were identified through testing.  A 2014 DoD Inspector General Report notes that there are “subconfigurations” within the basic CE-I design as a result of these changes.

The CE-I has been flight tested six times, with four of these being intercept tests. The MDA classifies the first three intercept tests, conducted in 2006-2008, as successful intercepts, although in the first only “a glancing blow” was struck to the target.  The fourth intercept test, FTG-7 in July 2014, was in part intended to demonstrate roughly twenty five upgrades made to the CE-I EKV.  However, the intercept attempt failed due to a problem with a battery.  The FY 2013 Annual Report by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation recommended that MDA “Conduct a redo of the FTG-07 test with a GBI equipped with a CE-I EKV…”  However, no such retest has occurred so far.  The next scheduled intercept test for a CE-I-equipped GBI appears to be as part of FTG-11 in 2017, a salvo test involving both CE-I and a CE-II GBIs.

EKV CE-II:  Facing obsolescence issues with some components of the CE-I, in 2005 MDA began design of a new Capability Enhancement-2 (CE-II) version of the EKV.  Deployment of CE-II-equipped GBIs began in October 2008.  A total of ten were deployed before the failure of December 2010 FTG-06a intercept test led to a halt in their deployment.  MDA has procured a total of twenty four CE-II equipped GBIs.  Sixteen of these had been delivered by September 2014; the remaining eight are to be delivered in 2015.

Although the CE-II program was initiated primarily to address obsolescence issues (in particular in its computer processor), it also provided some improved kill vehicle capabilities (see my post of April 3, 2012).  Relative to the CE-I, the CE-II has a more sensitive infrared seeker, and the new processor is said to provide improved onboard discrimination capabilities.  Specifically, the CE-II upgrade increased the number of objects the kill vehicle could track, and had some “minor” algorithm performance improvements.[1] As with the CE-I, there are subconfigurations within the basic CE-II design.

The CE-II EKV has been flight-tested four times, three of which involved intercept attempts.  The first two intercept flight tests, FTG-06 and FTG-06a, both failed in 2010.  A successful non-intercept flight test (CTV-01) in January 2013 and a successful intercept test in June 2014 permitted deployment of CE-IIs to begin again.

EKV CE-II Block 1: The CE-II Block I is an improved version of the CE-II EKV.  It will at least incorporate new components to address the guidance failure in FTG-06a and the battery-related failure in FTG-07, plus the alternate divert thrusters to be tested in CTV-02+ and some electrical improvements.  No other improvements have been publicly disclosed, but the Block 1 is intended to have increased reliability relative to the previous CE-II EKVs.

The first flight test of the Block 1 is currently planned to be the FTG-15 intercept test in late 2016. This will also be the first test of an operationally-configured GBI against an ICBM-range target.  If this test is successful, ten CE-II Block 1 interceptors will be delivered and deployed in 2017, bringing the total number of deployed to the MDA’s goal of 44.

RKV:  The Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV) is new kill vehicle that will incorporate largely existing kill vehicle components and subassemblies into a new modular design. It has also been referred to as the “EKV CE-III.”[2] According to MDA Director Admiral Syring: “The new EKV will improve reliability and be more producible, testable, reliable and cost effective and eventually will replace the kill vehicle on our current GBI.”[3]  In addition, the RKV will also have improved target acquisition and discrimination capabilities and provide for on-demand communications between the RKV and the GMD fire control system.  MDA requested $229 million for RKV development in FY 2016, with total development spending planned as $658 million through FY 2020.

MDA plans to design the RKV itself using the best elements of proposals from Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed-Martin, with a production award contest in 2018.  Under current plans the RKV will have a first flight test in 2018 followed by an intercept test in 2019.  If these tests are successful, deployment of the RKV on Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) would begin in 2020, likely replacing already deployed EKV-equipped GBIs.

CKV: There is no kill vehicle known as a Common Kill Vehicle (CKV).  Rather, the Common Kill Vehicle Program is a two-phase effort aimed at developing strategies and technologies for “the next generation of our exo-atmospheric kill vehicles.”[4]  MDA requested $47 million for the CKV program in FY 2016 and plans to spend $380 million on the program through FY 2020.

In the first phase of the CKV Program, begun in 2014, concepts and requirements were developed for the RKV.

The second phase, to begin in FY 2016, will involve both developing concepts for Multi-Object Kill Vehicles (MOKVs – see below)).  It will also involve developing strategies and technologies, such communication architectures, guidance technologies, and command and control strategies that might be used in a future MOKV program.

MKV: The Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV – sometimes Miniature Kill Vehicle) program was started by MDA in 2004.  Its objective was to produce a kill vehicle small enough that several or many MKVs could be placed on a single interceptor, with each MKV able to intercepting a separate target.  This program aimed to reduce the problem of discrimination by allowing every credible object in a threat cloud to be attacked.  The MDA announced the termination of the MKV program in 2009, saying it would instead “invest in technologies that would defeat threat missiles in their ascent phase before deployment of countermeasures,” an approach that was abandoned several years later.  Prior to abandoning it, MDA spent nearly $700 million on the MKV program.

MOKV: The Multiple-Object Kill Vehicle (MOKV) is a revival of the MKV concept.  Current plans call for work on the MOKV to begin in FY 2016 under the Common Kill Vehicle program with MDA awarding several contracts to industry to develop MOKV concepts.  In parallel, MDA will invest in developing several key MOKV technologies.  According to MDA Director Admiral Syring in 2015 congressional testimony: “Ultimately, these Multi-Object Kill Vehicles will revolutionize our missile defense architecture, substantially reducing the interceptor inventory required to defeat an evolving and more capable threat to the Homeland.”[5]  However, even if the MOKV program is successful, MOKVs may not be deployed until 2030.[6]

[1] Admiral Syring’s 2014 SMDC Conference presentation slides.

[2] Amy Butler, “Reprieve and Refocus,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, September 1, 2014, pp. 21-22.

[3] Statement of Vice Admiral J.D. Syring to the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, June 11, 2014.

[4] Admiral J.D. Syring prepared statement to the Subcommittee on Defense, Senate Appropriations Committee, March 18, 2015.

[5] Syring prepared statement.

[6] Lee Hudson, “MDA Continues Balancing Congress, Budget While Achieving Homeland Defense Initiatives,” Inside Defense SITREP, December 16, 2014.

Leave a comment


  1. j_kies

     /  April 27, 2015

    Re MVK and MOKV, nothing shows you’re serious like changing the jargon. Good collection of the major funded / not so funded variations on the EKV theme.

  2. corkyboyd

     /  April 28, 2015

    Good recap of the history of kill vehicles for the GMD system. Hope the latest variant proves successful. Also would appreciate keeping us updated on siting issues for GMD.

  3. Mike

     /  May 6, 2015

    Nice article, nice recap.


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