Lockheed Martin announced today that its team successfully conducted a free-flight hover test of the US Missile Defence Agency’s multiple-kill vehicle-L (MKV-L).

The MKV-L is designed to destroy medium through intercontinental-range ballistic missiles equipped with multiple warheads or countermeasures by using a single interceptor missile.

During a missile attack, the carrier vehicle unleashes its cargo of small kill vehicles which manoeuvre into the path of an enemy missile, using tracking data from the ballistic missile defence system and its own seeker to destroy any warheads or countermeasures.

The full-scale prototype flew at an altitude of approximately 23ft (7m) for 20 seconds, manoeuvring while simultaneously tracking a target.

Lockheed Martin’s multiple-kill vehicle programme director, Rick Reginato said that the test demonstrated the integrated operation of the MKV-L in near-earth flight.

“This represents a major step forward for the earliest operational payload designed to destroy multiple threat objects with a single missile defence interceptor,” said Reginato.

MKV-L hover test bed programme director, Randy riley, said that:

“Testing the payload in the ground-based, controlled flight environment at the National hover test facility enables us to verify interoperation of components and subsystems as they are incrementally developed and integrated.”

The test was the first of several to prove MKV readiness for complex flight testing aboard the Ballistic Missile Defence System’s ground-based interceptor currently deployed in Alaska and Southern California.

By Daniel Garrun.