The American hypersonic weapons program is stalling again: over the weekend, the B-52 strategic bomber failed to launch the promising AGM-183A missile. This is the third unsuccessful test. Washington is struggling to close the gap with Russia – in addition to strike systems, they are also developing protection against “hypersound”. About what the Pentagon plans – in the material of RIA Novosti.
It is believed that it is impossible to defend against hypersonic weapons. A missile reaching the target at a speed of more than Mach five and actively maneuvering is practically invulnerable to modern anti-aircraft weapons.
The country that will be the first to master such technologies and begin to implement them on a massive scale will receive a serious advantage over potential adversaries. Russia is the closest to this. The United States is in the role of catch-up, which is what Washington is seriously concerned about.
In December, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced a competition for a missile defense system for the Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) project.
Three defense giants will compete for a lucrative contract: Raytheon Missiles and Defense, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman Systems. By the end of September 2022, they will present to the customer the concept of an interceptor missile capable of destroying hypersonic targets. About $ 60 million was allocated for the first competitive stage.
The tactical and technical requirements for the GPI were not disclosed. However, it is known that promising missiles are intended for ships – in particular, destroyers of the Arleigh Burke type – and must be fully compatible with standard vertical launch systems Mk 41. This means that the length of the ammunition will not exceed seven meters, the diameter is 710 millimeters. Thanks to the Aegis information and control system, the carrier will be able to launch both independently and according to external target designation.
It is especially emphasized that the destroyers’ ammunition will include both the Glide Phase Interceptor and the already adopted Standard family interceptors, which are responsible for the destruction of “classic” ballistic targets. GPI’s mission is to intercept hypersonic gliding warheads. Such a payload is carried, for example, by the newest Russian complex “Avangard”.
The warhead of a traditional ICBM travels towards a target in near space along a predictable trajectory, making them vulnerable to interceptor missiles. “Vanguard” flies in the atmosphere, while actively “rying”. As Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said in December 2018, the product reached a speed of about 27 Mach numbers during testing.
It is not yet very clear how the Pentagon expects to shoot down such “meteors”.
Antimissiles destroy the target in a kinetic way – that is, with a direct hit. Probably, the GPI will also accelerate to hypersound and be able to correct the course, and the thermal seeker will recognize the red-hot gas trail of the object.
However, all these are just assumptions. If the launch of the UR-100N UTTH with the Avangard is clearly visible from space, then the glider, after its separation from the carrier, is extremely difficult to detect with the existing technical means.
The satellites of the American missile attack warning system (EWS) are too high – in geostationary orbits, and their infrared sensors reveal brighter and more visible thermal signatures of ballistic targets.
In fact, these devices are useless when it comes to hypersonic cruise missiles (including the Russian anti-ship “Zircon”) and gliding warheads.
Last fall, the Space Development Agency (SDA) nevertheless announced the start of construction of a constellation of spacecraft to track high-speed targets. The Americans are confident that the problem will be solved by satellites in low orbits, which will detect a hypersonic threat already at the launch stage and take it for escort.
A year ago, the Pentagon allocated $ 350 million for the corresponding development.
Eight experimental vehicles will be launched into space by 2023.
Satellites of the space echelon of an early warning system, operating in the continuous infrared mode, will be able to detect signals from cruise missiles and warheads with wide field of view sensors.
Each will take control of a certain area of the terrain and, upon noticing a hypersonic target, immediately raise the alarm.
Testing in the Arctic
The early warning system will operate in close conjunction with the Hypersonic Ballistic Ballistic Tracking Space Sensors (HBTSS), which will take over the baton immediately after the detection of the hypersonic missile. The task is to bring the interceptor to the target area. The HBTSS prototype is promised to be shown in 2023.
The long-term plans of the Pentagon include hundreds of orbiters in near space, covering the Earth with a kind of umbrella, which, in theory, will allow tracking each launch of a hypersonic rocket.
Russia has similar developments. As reported the other day in the military-industrial complex, by the end of the year in the Arctic they will test an air defense system with a practical interception of a hypersonic target. It is expected that the target will be destroyed at a distance of hundreds of kilometers. The missile type and tactical and technical characteristics are still strictly classified.