U.S. Hypersonic Defense
On October 19th, 2021, the Congressional Research Service issued its latest report on the development of hypersonic weapons by the U.S. as well as its adversaries, and also on the current plans for hypersonic missile defense in the U.S. According to the report, fully operational missile defense in the U.S. won’t be operational until the mid 2020s. In January 2020, MDA issued a draft request for prototype proposals for a Hypersonic Defense Regional Glide Phase Weapons System interceptor. MDA has requested $248 million for hypersonic defense in FY2022—up from its $207 million FY2021 request. DARPA continues to work on its Glide Breaker, advanced technology to support a lightweight vehicle designed for precise engagement of hypersonic threats at very long range. DARPA requested $7 million for Glide Breaker in FY2022.
China may have tested a nuclear-capable HGV92 launched by a Long March rocket in August 2021. The Long March rocket launches into space before launching at its target, which could provide China with a space-based global strike capability and further reduce the amount of target warning time the U.S. would have if a rocket is launched. In January 2017, a Department of Defense report found that over half of open-source Chinese papers on hypersonic weapons included references to Russian weapons programs, potentially indicating Russian inspiration for Chinese hypersonic weapons or collaboration between the two. It is suspected that China will incorporate its hypersonic capability into its anti-access area denial strategy, its strategy for keeping the U.S. out of Northeast Asia. The DF-17, China’s MRBM, is currently capable of being deployed on a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV). DF-41, China’s ICBM is also capable of being deployed on an HGV and poses a direct threat to the US homeland. The DF-ZF HGV, which has a 1,200 mile range and high maneuverability, was suspected of being deployed in 2020. The Starry Sky, China’s latest project, is a nuclear “waverider” that uses powered flight after launch and derives lift from its own shockwaves and has an estimated deployment of 2025.
Russia continues to work on its Avangard HGV, which it wants to deploy on a Sarmat ICBM and is expected to be operational by the end of 2022. The Avangard entered combat duty December 2019. Russia also continues to work on the 3M22 Tsirkon, a ship-launched hypersonic cruise missile, which was successfully launched from a Project 22350 frigate in 2020. It is expected the Tsirkon will become operational in 2023. The Kinzhal (“Dagger”), a maneuvering air-launched ballistic missile, is one of Russia’s more secretive projects. Claims regarding Kinzhal’s performance characteristics have not been publicly verified by U.S. intelligence agencies, and have been met with skepticism by a number of analysts
The Pentagon’s FY2022 budget request for hypersonic research is $3.8 billion, up from $3.2 billion in the FY2021 request. The Missile Defense Agency additionally requested $247.9 million for hypersonic defense. DOD has requested $247.9 million for hypersonic defense programs and $3.8 billion for offensive hypersonic weapons programs in FY2022
Read the full report here:
Aegis BMD 2021 Report
On October 20, 2021, the Congressional Research Service issued its report on the Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program. The report highlights the critical importance of the presence of AEGIS ships in European waters to defend against the Iranian missile threat and its presence in the Western Pacific to defend against North Korea. The report also raised important questions for congress to address. Core questions include the role of AEGIS in defending against the ICBM threat, what the total required amount of AEGIS ships should be, if the BMD mission places too great a burden on the Navy and instead should be carried out with more AEGIS Ashore sites, if AEGIS Ashore should be deployed in Guam, conversion of the AEGIS test site in Hawaii to a land-based AEGIS site, how to best work with allies regarding AEGIS operations and how far along directed energy research is to be used on AEGIS ships.
Read the full report here: