Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Arlington, VA, United States (4E) – The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is embarking on an anti-hypersonic missile program where a hard-kill interceptor can destroy hypersonic boost-glide vehicles (HGVs) moving at speeds of more than Mach 5 (6,000 km/h).
DARPA’s “Glide Breaker Program” intends to make China and Russia think twice about launching HGVs against the United States or its allies. DARPA recently revealed concept art of the Glide Breaker Interceptor. DARPA’s concept art also shows hard-kill, kinetic interceptors about to impact unpowered HGVs.
The objective of the Glide Breaker program is to advance the capability of the United States to defend against supersonic and all hypersonic threats, said DARPA. Of particular interest to DARPA are component technologies that radically reduce risk for development and integration of an operational, hard-kill system.
Glide Breaker’s stated goal is to research and develop technologies to defeat both high-supersonic and hypersonic threats. GHlide Breaker, however, will be only one element in a set of layered defenses that will defend against both HGVs and their air-breathing counterparts such as Russia’s Kinzhal missile.
In addition, “breaker” is a clear call back to at least two earlier DARPA efforts, Assault Breaker and Tank Breaker, both of which were Cold War-era projects focused on defeating Soviet tanks and other armored vehicles. The former program also featured a multi-faceted approach that led to the development of a host of air and ground-based sensors, weapon systems, and other technologies.
The Glide Breaker program will also look into long-range, stand-off sensors to spot enemy HGVs or air breathing missiles. That’s because the U.S. military’s terrestrial and space-based early warning sensors aren’t capable of reliably tracking strategic hypersonic weapons.
None of America’s fielded or in-development missile defense systems have the capability to engage hypersonic threats. American forces on the ground and at sea also have limited means of spotting a hypersonic weapon strike and no way of stopping it.
U.S. Air Force General John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command, has been particularly vocal about ensuring that space-based sensors can track hypersonic weapons.
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