Pentagon's satellite investment boosts hypersonic defences
By William Davies, associate aerospace and defence analyst at GlobalData
The US is aiming to deploy hypersonic weapons by the mid-2020s, but both Russia and China claim that they are on track to deploy significantly sooner — putting the US at a potential disadvantage.
Russia claimed in 2019 that its ‘Avengard’ missile was operational and has recently upgraded Kh-32s with the capability to carry hypersonic missiles, while China has developed the DF-17, which could potentially strike the US mainland if fired from a naval vessel.
With a recent admission that China is ahead of the US in hypersonic weapons development, the US is continuing its investment, which previously included major contracts to develop hypersonic weapons (Hacksaw). The US is also developing a common missile body for use by multiple military branches (C-HGB).
The ability of hypersonic glide weapons to rapidly manoeuvre presents a challenge in terms of tracking. The development of anti-satellite systems by both Russia and China is a threat to the US’s existing missile warning systems.
The US is keen to create better-networked missile detection systems by developing effective advanced tracking and interception technologies, and investment is likely to fuel significant advances in the field. Within this scope, the Pentagon has announced plans to develop an early warning and tracking satellite system and has awarded contracts to L3Harris and SpaceX.
In addition to new satellite arrays the Pentagon is also investing in ways to intercept hypersonic missiles, awarding contracts to Northrop Grumman at the beginning of 2020 as part of its Glide Breaker programme. These satellites will provide the capability to detect and track incoming strikes, which will be crucial to hypersonic missile countermeasures. The aim for these new contracts is for a direct connection between this satellite tracking layer and weapons systems currently in development to counter potential strikes.
The recent GlobalData report ‘Hypersonic Technologies’ discusses in depth the leaders and challengers in this industry and breaks down the likely industry developments over the next ten years.
For more defence industry comment and analysis, visit GlobalData’s Aerospace, Defense & Security Intelligence Centre.