5 Jun space development Agency (AKP), a new division of the Pentagon on space technologies, has requested the development of an improved tracking system for missile defense “space level”. Technical notification arrived without much fanfare or public attention. But for those who know, this is the beginning of a major strategic initiative that can ensure America’s military superiority.
The issue is relevant. Today American superiority in missile technology is challenged for the first time since the end of the cold war. Along with the United States the kinetic weapon the next generation — hypersonic rocket developed by Russia and China. The hypersonic weapons system designed to defeat existing anti-missile defence with incredible speed, exceeding the speed of sound to twenty-seven times, and high maneuverability (the ability to change the trajectory in flight).
Effective countermeasures against these weapons currently do not exist. Because our opponents match our technological level in this area — and in some cases even surpass it — the Pentagon needs to give priority to research and development of protection against hypersonic weapons.
America’s military strength rests on its ability to project power over large distances — that is, to bring the overwhelming force of troops, ships, aircraft and missiles in every corner of the world in a short period of time. Although our closest competitors, Russia and China, this “expeditionary” force projection no hypersonic weapons give their armed forces a powerful tool bar access or blocking zone (A2AD), allowing to restrain the deployment of US forces and even threatened “decapitation” the first shot. Not surprisingly, Russia and China — and even competitors the second level, like Iran and North Korea — are actively implementing this technology surge.
Hypersonic weapons are long gone from the drawing Board and already being used by our opponents. The people’s liberation army (PLA) at the military parade of 2019 have demonstrated a hypersonic gliding aircraft (GPL) medium-range DF-ZF mounted on standard ballistic missile medium-range DF-17. Although officially the system is armed with a conventional warhead and is designed to destroy stationary targets, experts believe that it can be easily equipped with nuclear warheads. In addition, it is reported that are in development and anti-ship “aircraft carrier killer” DF-ZF. With a range of 2,500 km and a maximum speed of 10 Mach — combined with extreme maneuverability in flight — DF-ZF designed specifically to defeat U.S. missile defense, including Aegis missile defense, which protects our ships, or THAAD, which covers the allied South Korea.
According to experts, a hypersonic gliding aircraft DF-ZF showed a high degree of accuracy in testing, and warhead landed “within a few meters” from the target. More importantly, the prototype of the DF-ZF is able to get away from the blow in flight, leaving the enemy to “a little time to respond.”
Chinese officials of their achievements in this area are not shy, on the contrary, turning a hypersonic weapon in a matter of national pride. At the conference on hypersonic 2017 in Xiamen Chinese scientists presented on the topic of more than 250 articles — almost ten times more than Americans. It is known that in the decade between 2008 and 2018, China held about twenty times more tests of hypersonic weapons than the United States.
Not lagging behind its southern neighbour, Russia is developing its own hypersonic Arsenal. 27 December 2019 the Minister of defence of Russia Sergey Shoigu has confirmed the deployment of the country’s first hypersonic Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) “vanguard”, calling it “a significant event”. Russian leaders lay great hopes on it, and the President of Russia Vladimir Putin boasted that “vanguard” is able to circumvent both existing and promising missile defense system. This optimism is appropriate, and on tests in December 2018, the missile successfully hit its target at a distance of about 6 thousand km, moving in “zigzag” trajectory at a speed of Mach 27.
Technologically avant-garde, apparently, more perfect than his Chinese counterpart. Launched ICBM RS-28 “Sarmat”, “vanguard” disconnected high above the atmosphere and then “slides” to the goal. In addition, Russia is close to having to deploy a hypersonic ballistic missile, air-launched “the Dagger”, which reportedly will reach speeds up to 10 Mach.
Spurred by the progress of competitors, the United States resumed its own hypersonic weapons program during the cold war. The Pentagon has asked Congress for 2 billion 865 million dollars in funding for hypersonic weapons in 2021 — a 13% increase in comparison with the total amount for the 2020 fiscal year (2 billion 508 million). The request includes funding for research systems offensive weapons — including hypersonic system on the truck, the missiles for submarines and surface ships and weapons airborne.
Requires knowledge of the situation
Development of hypersonic defense funded much more modest — at least, not yet. So, the development of sensor space hypersonic and ballistic tracking (HBTSS) is a joint project of the missile defense Agency, the U.S. and the ACRE — at the moment, leaving only a small part of the budgets of these institutions on the “development of space technologies and creating prototypes.”
However, given the ability of hypersonic systems to detect the loopholes in defense, passing under the radar horizons and staying out of range of the interceptor until there is time to react — even to attempt to capture the required new tracking method. In fact, this can only be achieved by grouping sensors in low earth orbit, as required by the program HBTSS. This group of sensors will consist of about 120 satellites, which will constantly and reliably detect targets regardless of their course or speed. Such a system will “take care of” any purpose since launch, and interceptors to provide the necessary data in real time, when every millisecond.
The urgent problem. The traditional system of defense — for example, ground-based missile defense system to cruising flight, the Aegis BMD and THAAD, is currently just not adequate to protect against hypersonic threats. Traditional missile defense — in fact it is to shoot a bullet at another bullet by itself a challenging task and requires tracking purposes, high-speed data transmission and interception. The speed and maneuverability of hypersonic missiles is much complicate this task. Located in the space layer [sensors] will improve the possession situation and give the existing system a chance to fight with the threat. Moreover, the advantages of space sensor layer is not limited to missile defense. Without exception, all divisions of the U.S. armed forces will benefit from the ability to better track the safety of combat units (from ships to troops and aircraft) in the total integrated system.
The ability to run such a system is in the hands of Congress. With adequate funding, research and development, lawmakers can ensure that the United States will make remote sensing a reality — and, ahead of opponents.
James Grant, associate fellow of the American foreign policy Council in Washington