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How does the US plan to deal with enemy hypersonic missiles?

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The United States is preparing to develop its hypersonic weapons interceptor project.

In late August, Lockheed Martin , Boeing and Raytheon entered into contracts with the Missile Defense Agency to develop interceptor projects to combat hypersonic weapons. At the same time, the Air Force Strategic Planning and Experiment Planning Office has engaged major arms groups to study the prospects of the Directed Energy Weapon (AED) market to protect against cruise missiles. A call for tenders has been published on the Federal Public Procurement website. What do we know about these programs?

Three projects

The call for tenders for the design of systems capable of intercepting aerobic and aerodynamic hypersonic targets was announced by the DARPA agency (responsible for research and development of new technologies for military use) in cooperation with the Agency for missile defense in November 2018.

Candidate companies brainstormed to submit their proposals to the Pentagon. In the end, Lockheed Martin won a $ 4.442 million contract for the development of the Valkyrie Interceptor Terminal Hypersonic Defense project. As reported by US media, Valkyrie will be able to defeat the advantage of Russia and China in the field of hypersonic weaponry. This project must be implemented before May 2, 2020.

Raytheon Missile Systems won the contract to design the SM-3 HAWK system ($ 4.445 million). Judging by the name of the project, it is the further development of anti-aircraft missiles of the Standard range RIM-161 SM-3 shipped by ships. These missiles are equipped with the Aegis combat system mounted on universal vectors Mk-41 and are intended to destroy different targets at an altitude outside, but can be deployed on the ground. By 2020, despite Moscow’s protests, the Americans intend to complete the deployment of naval and land-based missiles in northern and southern Europe.

Finally, Boeing has signed a $ 4.357 million contract for the development of the Hypervelocity Interceptor Concept for Hypersonic Weapons concept (HYVINT). Boeing already has experience working with the hyperson: on May 26, 2010, the company’s specialists successfully tested the X-51A Waverider cruise hypersonic missile. The projectile had exceeded the Mach 5 speed.

The X-51A was due to be commissioned in 2017, but the date had to be postponed for various reasons. According to the latest information, the missile will not be put into service until 2020.

Open sources do not provide detailed information about these programs. Some of these systems may be deployed in space. In January, US Under Secretary of Defense Michael Griffith said:

“As for the spatial level of the ABM, it starts with the sensors. […] We have to face hypersonic regional threats from Russia and China. It is not related to intercontinental missiles. These targets are harder to detect, so you need to be closer to the launch point. […] We also need more coverage. ”

On the potential deployment of interceptors in space, Griffith said a special study would be devoted to this issue, particularly to assess the effectiveness and cost of deploying such systems. No time has been specified, but when designing hypersonic weapons interceptors it is likely that Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin are also exploring the possibilities of deploying them in space.

Lasers and microwaves

In early September, the US Government Procurement website released a document from the US Air Force’s Strategic Planning and Experimentation Office (SDPE). The Pentagon announces the beginning of market research for the design of the directed energy weapon (AED) to protect the air bases against cruise missiles.

This demand probably comes in response to the massive commissioning of Kalibr cruise missiles in the Russian Navy, as well as the development of similar systems in China. The Pentagon has called on the arms companies to participate in the program by presenting concepts and technical solutions for high-energy lasers and powerful microwave systems that can cope with this threat. The start of the tests is scheduled for fiscal year 2020.

These systems are intended for the protection of advanced air bases. They will be integrated into the global anti-aircraft and missile defense system to work together with “conventional” anti-aircraft systems. It is emphasized that one of the main objectives of the study is to study the efficiency of kinetic and energetic weapon interaction to accomplish the same task.

On December 1, 2018, Russia commissioned Peresvet laser systems for testing. This weapon is very secret but, according to experts, this system fulfills missions of antiaircraft and anti-missile defense, as well as fight against drones. The Pentagon has obviously decided to catch up in this area as well.

In November 2018, Michael Griffith announced that the US military would receive a high-powered laser weapon within a few years, but for this the Pentagon should multiply by three or four the investments in this sector. He also mentioned that the military intended to use the powerful microwave radiation to create a system capable of neutralizing the drones and high-precision weapons of a potential enemy.

On September 5, 2019, it was announced that the Pentagon had postponed the plan to launch a neutral particle beam weapon into space to fight enemy missiles. In March, Pentagon officials requested $ 34 million from the 2020 budget to fulfill the goal of testing particle beam weapons in space in 2023. However, Congressional Democrats did not like this proposal and the House of Representatives’ House of Representatives Committee excluded these expenses from the budget bill.

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