The US Navy may soon have a way to shoot down hypersonic missiles
The US Navy plans to begin deploying interceptors capable of shooting down hypersonic missiles aboard select Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers in just a few years. Although some critics counter that the Navy’s timetable looks terribly optimistic, as no existing missile defense system has been proven to be capable of intercepting an incoming hypersonic weapon.
Hypersonic missiles fly above Mach 5, and potentially much faster than that, making them so much faster than ballistic and cruise missiles previously used by national armies that even advanced air defense systems like the American destroyer-based Aegis combat systems cannot find and shoot down hypersonic missiles in flight. This has raised alarm bells among many in the Defense Department, both to deploy America’s own hypersonic weapons and, of course, to find ways to defend against those employed by foreign military personnel.
There are different methods of achieving hypersonic speeds with a missile, including scramjet propulsion which often requires rocket assistance at launch or deployment from fast airplanes as scramjet engines require a high volume of air to operate. effectively. Conversely, there are also hypersonic “glide vehicles”, which are traditionally transported to high altitudes using a rocket motor similar to those used on intercontinental ballistic missiles. The hypersonic gliding vehicle then separates from the thruster and returns to earth at extremely high speeds. In fact, some of these missiles travel so fast that the kinetic transfer of their impact is enough to sink a ship without the need for an explosive warhead.
The United States was quite public about its efforts to begin deploying its own hypersonic missile suite in the coming years, but until recently the US Department of Defense echoed the popular consensus that hypersonic weapons cannot be stopped. Today, however, the US Regional Glide Phase Weapon System (RGPWS) is undergoing rapid development for deployment purposes specifically (at least initially) aboard advanced US destroyers.
America already relies heavily on its fleet of Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers for missile defense, which some critics have called a waste of destroyer bandwidth. When serving in an air defense role, U.S. Navy destroyers must navigate specific areas of the ocean to maximize their ability to intercept incoming missiles, which some say is a waste of a platform. form capable of supporting a wide variety of defense operations. . However, it appears that the US Navy’s plan to hypersonic defense will also take advantage of the multiple launch tubes available on US destroyers, effectively ensuring the continued use of destroyers for missile defense for years to come.
The RGPWS system was apparently designed More precisely for use in the Mk. 41 vertical launch tubes used by destroyers and other U.S. ships, which will allow this hypersonic intercept capability to be rapidly deployed and adopted aboard existing ships without requiring modifications. According to the Navy, this will allow America to “proliferate the capability” through force very quickly.
This system is specifically adapted towards the hypersonic gliding vehicle weapon propulsion method, designed to engage an entering hypersonic glider vehicle (HVG) during its non-motorized glide phase, which, despite its extraordinary speed, is the I point that these platforms are the more vulnerable to intercept.
Of course, in order to effectively intercept heavy goods vehicles, the Navy will need to be notified in advance of their launch. To do this, the Navy is working with the Missile Defense Agency and the Space Development Agency to put in place a new space sensor system that is expected to be operational within the next three years. Thanks to the early warning provided by this new network of sensors, the RGPWS will theoretically be able to project the trajectory of heavy goods vehicles and to intercept them before they reach their target.
While the RGPWS system will initially be limited to destroyers, these systems will likely find their place in a variety of platforms, including land and air launch varieties. If the United States is able to find a way to reliably intercept incoming hypersonic weapons, both the US naval stature and the position of many defense officials on the future of aircraft carriers will likely change. Currently, many lawmakers and defense officials are seeking to reduce the role of carriers in peer-to-peer conflict for fear of losing them to indefensible hypersonic weapons.
As to exactly how the RGPWS system will work, it remains a secret at this time.