During the recent seventy-fifth anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, North Korea surprised the world and revealed a new liquid-fueled Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with the capability of reaching the United States, potentially with multiple nuclear warheads. This evolving threat highlights the critical importance of our homeland missile defense system and the country’s need to continue investing in missile-defense system upgrades.
However, the upgrades to the national defense contained in the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) program may not be funded if the defense budget continues for the rest of the year under a continuing resolution. Those funds will also be negatively impacted if congressional opponents of defenses push to eliminate some of the upgrades—especially technology that can intercept multiple warheads coming at the US simultaneously.
Currently, America’s forty-four interceptors, the Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs), are silent sentinels standing alert twenty-four/seven, in concrete silos in Alaska and California. Their mission is to fly out of their silos, find and destroy the incoming warhead. The mission is extremely complex, in fact, it is likened to the precision of a bullet hitting a bullet.
Although the existing GBI system has not been required to be used in a real-world scenario to date, the Missile Defense Agency regularly conducts flight tests to validate its effectiveness. During such tests, U.S. and allied satellites orbiting thousands of miles above the earth detect the bright launch plume of a mock enemy Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), in this case it is a US-built ICBM target.
Each GBI carries its own advanced technology spacecraft, which is known as the Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV). The EKV is a sophisticated package of infrared sensors combined with advanced computers and software to distinguish the in-bound warhead from debris and decoys and guide the EKV to intercept the threat using on-board propulsion.