Possible Hypersonic Glide Vehicle Defense System on the Horizon?

Discussion in 'Ballistic Missile Defense' started by AMDR, May 31, 2016.

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  1. AMDR

    AMDR Captain Staff Member Administrator

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    FY17 HASC NDAA package came with this:

    https://www.congress.gov/114/crpt/hrpt537/CRPT-114hrpt537.pdf
    Section 1657—Hypersonic Boost Glide Vehicle Defense

    This section would require the Director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to establish a program of record to develop and field a defensive system to defeat hypersonic boost-glide and maneuvering ballistic missiles not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act. It would also require the Director to consider opportunities for co-development of the defensive system, including through financial support, with allies and partners of the United States. This section would also limit the headquarters expenditures of both the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics by withholding $25.0 million from each until the Director of the MDA certifies the establishment of the program of record and certain other matters. This section would additionally require the Secretary of Defense, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, to provide a report to specific congressional committees not later than 120 days after the enactment of this Act on the implications of the Missile Technology Control Regime of such defensive system. This section would require that a plan be submitted along with the fiscal year 2018 budget request on the cost and schedule to develop such a defensive capability."


    Given the Russian Yu-71 and Chinese DF-ZF HGV development programs, this is relieving to hear. Doing this with a Railgun or Laser won't be a realistic option until at least 2030, so there seems to be only two short-term approaches as of right now according to the MDA, the THAAD-ER or expanded SM-6. They have already taken a look at this:

    http://aviationweek.com/defense/mda-eyes-thaad-er-sm-6-counter-hypersonic-threat

    "The U.S. Missile Defense Agency is assessing options for a "potential evolution" to its interceptor plans that could be a boost for Lockheed Martin’s Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) or Raytheon’s SM-6 designs. At issue is a growing concern among defense planners that advances in hypersonic glide vehicles from China and Russia pose a looming threat to the U.S. and its allies."

    Lockheed has spent some its own money into developing a THAAD-ER in anticipation that eventually the military would need it. Looks like that gamble paid off. They claim that if funding started in FY18 they could have an operational system in 2022, which is not long after the projected initial deployment of both the Russian and Chinese HGVs.

    From: http://aviationweek.com/defense/thaad-er-search-mission

    "“One of the things the MDA is looking very closely at is the upgrade of the Thaad system to the ER configuration so we can extend the reach of dealing with a target just like that,” says Trotsky about hypersonic boost glide vehicles. “That kind of a target is designed to find a seam between systems like Patriot . . . and the Aegis weapon system. Because Thaad operates both in the endoatmosphere and the exoatmosphere, it has intercept capability in the region where that threat flies. The [ER] version would extend our battlespace against that kind of threat.”

    Lockheed Martin has been honing its Thaad-ER concept for nearly 10 years. Thaad is a $3.8 billion program, and Lockheed invested its own research funding to explore the ER design. A full development for Thaad-ER could cost as much as $1 billion.

    However, Lockheed is restarting its Thaad-ER campaign now, in an attempt to exploit this narrow window of opportunity. Although Thaad-ER would provide some capability against a rudimentary hypersonic threat, it is not an optimal solution, the industry source says. Ideally, the Pentagon hopes to have matured other technologies—such as railguns or directed energy—to counter the threat. But those are not expected until the mid-to-late 2020s. Until then, Thaad-ER could fill a gap. To do so, it would need to start no later than the fiscal 2018 budget cycle, the first to be delivered to Congress from President Barack Obama’s successor. This schedule is expected to produce a fielded product in 2022."

    As if the Russians and Chinese didn't absolutely despise THAAD already (look no further: http://sputniknews.com/world/20160430/1038881534/russia-china-hypersonic-gliders.html), it will be interesting to see what they will say if their "highly anticipated" HGV programs gets countered 2 years after initial deployment by a relatively cheap follow-on development. I would imagine they wont be very happy.

    :_-0-_:

    Pictures:
    thaad_er-2.png
    doug-graham-5-638.jpg


     
    Last edited: May 31, 2016
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  2. F-22

    F-22 2nd Lieutenant

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    Hopefully the THAAD-ER program moves forward and is fully funded in FY18. We also need to move faster on our own hypersonic programs. They should be a top priority in the years ahead. Ideally, hypersonic cruise missiles will be integrated with the B-21 bomber by the late 20's.
     
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  3. Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Lieutenant Colonel

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    The development of and fielding of the THAAD-ER is critical. We need to have it ready before they have enough time to use their HGV's. I am particularly concerned about China using them in the Pacific knowing that we can't counter it yet. Hopefully our lawmakers move quickly on this.
     
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  4. AMDR

    AMDR Captain Staff Member Administrator

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    Like @F-22 said, it is also extremely important that we deploy our own hypersonic weapons in order to form a layer of deterrence or response against the same class of weapon. This, in conjunction with a system like THAAD-ER, would be fantastic.

    There is good news and bad news. The good news is that there is multiple US hypersonic weapons programs being developed over a wider set of platforms than both China or Russia. This includes:

    • DARPA Tactical Boost Glide - air-launched and Mk.41 VLS-launched tactical-range boost glide system . First flight test 2019.
    • DARPA Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapons Concept - scramjet cruise missile, air-launched. Demonstration program, but likely weaponized after transition to USAF. First flight test 2018
    • Navy Intermediate Range Conventional Prompt Strike (IRCPS) - this is the neat one. Long-range hypersonic glide vehicle deployed from the sea for the CGPS requirement. Few details available, but when referring to a similar system way back when, Leon Panetta stated that it will most likely be deployed from the Virginia Payload Module of a Block 5 Virginia-class submarine. Two flight test planned for 2017 and 2019.
    • Warheads/Munitions optimized for Hypersonic strike under development by the Munitions directorate of AFRL.
    • Possibly an Army hypersonic glide vehicle for land attack and anti-ship strikes based off the AHW glider. This one will be dependent on what gets negotiated and what doesn't in the FY17 NDAA conferences.
    The bad news is that our programs are progressing agonizingly slowly and both the Chinese and Russians are ahead of us on the path to operational deployment of a hypersonic weapon, both boost-glide and air-breathing. The Chinese, while silent on the development any hypersonic cruise missiles, have racked up 7 tests of their DF-ZF glider in 2 years and that is on track for deployment by 2020. The Russians have reportedly tested their Yu-71 glider multiple times and want 24 nuclear-tipped for deployed by 2025. They also want to start production of the 3M22 Zircon anti-ship missile in 2018 and deployment on a Kirov-class cruiser by 2023.

    HGVs are, at least in my opinion, the most pressing off all system-to-system arms races that the US currently faces from China and Russia. Both countries see it as a way to penetrate US missile defenses and reassure themselves of their ability to strike the US with nuclear weapons. Once they feel confident they have accomplished that, they will probably build HGV variants designed to sink US warships thousands of miles from their shores and conventionally strike US bases all over the world.

    We have to act now. THAAD-ER, SM-6, IRCPS, everything.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2016
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  5. Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Lieutenant Colonel

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