US to Develop Defense Solutions Against Nuke Hypersonic Missile Threats from Russia, China

By Prei Dy, | February 23, 2017

China's DF-ZF and Russia's Yu-71 hypersonic missiles could penetrate US defense missile systems. (YouTube)

China's DF-ZF and Russia's Yu-71 hypersonic missiles could penetrate US defense missile systems. (YouTube)

The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has started a study to determine countermeasures and defense solutions for advanced missile threats from other countries including ultra-high-speed maneuvering hypersonic missiles.

"MDA understands the emerging threat posed by hypersonic glide vehicle and maneuvering ballistic missile warheads and is evaluating programs and technologies to address this threat," Chris Johnson, MDA spokesperson, told Inside the Ring.

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To carry out the study, Washington Times reported that MDA has requested for relevant information that will be needed to determine weapon concepts for defense against future advanced threats. The requests are expected to be provided on Friday, and an "analysis of alternatives" planned for this year is anticipated after.

One of the military weapons to be evaluated is hypersonic missiles that are currently undergoing rapid development from powerful nations like China and Russia, as a mean to penetrate advanced air and missile defenses like those produced by the Army and Navy. For instance, China's DF-ZF hypersonic glide and Russia's Yu-71 are launched atop ballistic missiles. These gliders could travel along the atmosphere's edge with a speed between Mach 5 and Mach 10 (that is, 5 to 10 times the speed of sound or a swift 3,800 to 7,600 miles per hour).

What is threatening is that these strike vehicles could take down or pierce all current US missile defenses, including California's and Alaska's ground-based interceptors, Aegis anti-missiles system, and even the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (or THAAD). Their speed and maneuverability will make them a hardly targetable weapon. Current US defenses will have a difficult time intercepting the gliders, allowing these advanced hypersonic missiles to easily evade an enemy's missile defense systems.

Of note, all US missile defenses are apparently designed from the ground up to target missiles, and their trajectories are predictable and unchanging. Furthermore, US defenses heavily rely on satellite and ground radar to track and intercept missiles that pass through a predicable flight path.

Meanwhile, Air Force experts have previously warned that the US is lagging behind the hypersonic missile race, and its military dominance should no longer be taken for granted.

"The People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation are already flight-testing high-speed maneuvering weapons (HSMWs) that may endanger both forward-deployed US forces and even the continental United States," the study by the Air Force experts revealed.

The study also criticized Pentagon for its "lack of leadership" as it showed "no formal strategic operational concept or organizational sense of urgency" for the impending threat.

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