Earlier this week on May 9th, 2023, the four men most responsible for US Homeland missile defense, Dr. John F. Plumb, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, General Glen D. VanHerck, Commander of Northern Command and NORAD, Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, and Lieutenant General Daniel L. Karbler, commander of US Army Space and Missile Defense Command, sat before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces and its Chairman Senator Angus King to give testimony on the Department of Defense’s Homeland missile defense activities and budget requirements in support of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. This budget invests a total of $29.8 Billion in Missile Defense and Defeat, a 10% increase from last year.
“Missile defense has two new aspects that we hope to examine in today’s hearing. First and foremost is the defense against hypersonic missiles. They do not follow a ballistic trajectory. Second, is the requirement to protect Guam against any threats that China may impose”. -Sen. Angus King, I-ME, May 9th, 2023.
The 2024 budget proposal dedicates only one percent of requested funds to the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS), and two percent to the Hypersonic Cruise Missile and the Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI). To clarify all missiles that go over Mach 5 are considered Hypersonic, including Ballistic missiles, Cruise missiles, and Glide vehicles. The U.S. has significant missile defense capabilities deployed today including Patriot, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), Aegis, and GBIs, all of which contribute to our nation’s high reliability and confidence in tracking, discriminating and intercepting hypersonic ballistic missiles. This was recently proved by the Ukraine Patriot interception earlier this week “there was a Patriot intercept of a Killjoy hypersonic missile in the last few days” -Assistant Secretary John F. Plumb responding to Chairman Angus King on hypersonic defense May 9th, 2023.
To clarify, the Russian Hypersonic Missile (KH-47M2 Kinzhal) is not a Hypersonic Cruise Missile or a Glide Phased Hypersonic Missile- the Killjoy is a missile launched from a Russian Aircraft and goes into a Ballistic trajectory at speeds greater than Mach 5 to strike its target. U.S. Operational Missile Defense Systems, including Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI), THAAD, and Aegis with its Standard Missiles, are all designed to track, discriminate and intercept ballistic missiles at hypersonic Speeds. Defense against maneuverable hypersonic vehicles – cruise missiles and glide vehicles not on a basic, predictable ballistic trajectory – is significantly more difficult. The U.S. lacks the requisite level of investment, development, testing and procurement of counter-hypersonic capabilities, with the sole exception being the U.S. Navy Terminal Defense of the Aegis Vertical Launch System launching SM6’s, which is operationally deployed on Navy Destroyers that are defending USS Aircraft Carriers and will soon be deployed on land in Guam as early as next year. DoD Investment is moving into having two operational demonstrations of the HBTSS proving out this year that provides tracking and fire control data of Hyper Glide Vehicles. HBTSS has the potential if investment is in it, to get a capacity of a constellation of 24 by the end of 2028. The projected initial operational deployment of the GPI is in the 2032-34 timeframe. HBTSS has slowed down to match the slow progress in development of the Glide Phased Interceptor (GPI) which is progressing very slowly and hampered by an apparent lack of prioritization and investment. The GPI will intercept hypersonic cruise missile and hypersonic glide vehicles during the glide phase of flight, which is significantly easier than intercepts in the boost or terminal phases of flight.
“Today our competitors are using advanced offensive missile capabilities as a principle means to execute their warfighting strategies. We know China is our department’s pacing challenge. China has accelerated its efforts to develop, test and field thousands of missile systems across all classes and ranges.”-Assistant Secretary John F. Plumb, May 9, 2023
China is producing, testing and working toward overmatch in hypersonic cruise, hypersonic glide, ballistic, and conventional cruise missiles as a means of enabling reunification with Taiwan by force as well as declaring sole sovereignty within the first island chain. The U.S.’s ability to maintain a foothold in the south Pacific and insure the safety and viability of the island of Guam, its main power projection platform in the area, hinges on fielding a comprehensive missile defense capability on the island, including the ability to defend against hypersonic cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles. Today, and up to the next Five Year Defense Plan (FYDP) that begins in 2028, the United States has to be able to deter China with the capabilities that are proven, developed and operational. After 2028 we have to change the way we fight to deter China.
“I believe the greatest risk for the United States stems from our inability to change at the pace required by the changing strategic environment. Homeland defense must be recognized as essential to contingency plans at home and for power projection at home, and it is vital that all military planning account for that in reality. In an era of incredible innovation and technological achievement, inflexible outdated processes are a greater impediment to success than many of our competitors’ advancements.” – Commander of USNORTHCOM and NORAD, General Glen D. VanHerck, May 9th, 2023