The US Congress is concerned about the Pentagon’s inability to detect and sustainably track hypersonic cruise missiles (GZKR). Such missiles are now entering service with the Russian army – these are Zircon and Dagger. Gazeta.Ru was trying to figure out why the American army could not yet resist the Russian air defense missile systems, how it plans to solve this problem and how much it will cost it.
Congressmen versus plasma
US lawmakers want the Pentagon to submit a detailed progress report on addressing the problem of detecting and sustaining radar tracking of hypersonic cruise missiles, Defense News writes. The US Department of Defense will have to submit a corresponding report within a few months.
“The Committee on Armed Forces is concerned about the inability of existing radar systems to detect, track and engage hypersonic weapons of a potential adversary. The Ministry of Defense urgently needs to increase the volume of work to combat these weapons, ”the committee said in a press release.
The detection and capture for escort of low-flying hypersonic cruise missiles (at altitudes of 200 meters or less) is an especially difficult problem, not only because they can maneuver the course and altitude, but also because of the speed that the GZKR can develop.
Rockets during flight create friction with the air to such an extent that it becomes ionized – the molecules separate, creating a charged cloud of particles, thereby forming a plasma envelope around the rocket. It absorbs sounding signals from radar stations and simply does not reflect them. As noted by Defense News, the currently operating American radar stations (radars) are not powerful enough and do not have the high resolution required in this case, which is necessary to detect a hypersonic missile.
To solve the problem of detecting GZKR, new equipment and electronics are needed, capable of operating with high information processing speed and bandwidth. According to Defense News sources, by using some of the capabilities of artificial intelligence and autonomy in the operation of the radar, the detection and tracking of the GZKR can be significantly improved. The question of price remains open. Current projections for modernization costs are approximately $ 10 billion. It is likely that this amount could increase.
Caught up and overtook America
The concerns of American lawmakers were significantly influenced by the successes of the Russian defense-industrial complex in the development and testing of hypersonic weapons. State tests of the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile will be completed this year. It is planned that, in addition to surface ships, by the end of 2021, hypersonic missiles will also be launched from submarines. The newest Russian GZKR is capable of developing a speed of about Mach 9 on a marching section at an altitude of 30-40 km, where air resistance is relatively low. Approximate tactical and technical characteristics of “Zircon” are as follows: firing range (according to various sources) – from 400 to 1000 km, product length – 8-10 m, warhead weight – 300-400 kg.
During the Army-2021 International Military-Tec-hnical Forum, the Russian Ministry of Defense signed a contract with the MIC N-PO Mashinostroyenia JSC (Reutov) for the supply of Zircon hypersonic missiles.
The Russian Aerospace Forces are equipped with the X-47M2 “Dagger” hypersonic aircraft missile system. Its carrier is a MiG-31K fighter (one missile). In the future, a long-range bomber Tu-22M3M (up to four missiles) is being considered. Not so long ago, information appeared that Russia is developing an air-launched hypersonic cruise missile of the X-95 type. According to preliminary data, the firing range of this missile will be at least 1000 km.
The command of the American fleet plans to equip its surface ships with the GZKR only in 2023, and submarines in 2024.
“Analysis of these terms shows that the saturation of the Russian army and navy with samples of hypersonic weapons will occur much earlier than the US Armed Forces. So the concern of American lawmakers has a very real basis, ” Lieutenant General Valery Zaparenko , former deputy chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces, told Gazeta.Ru.