Missile defense has gone from pie-in-the-sky Star Wars technology in the 1980s to a proven military capability in the 21st century, and the Missile Defense Agency is looking to extend those capabilities against new threats.
Navy Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the agency’s director, told the Hypersonic Weapons Systems webinar in London the agency is looking to adapt current technologies against the hypersonic threat while looking toward new capabilities.
“The sad reality is that many of these threats, regardless of how they’re launched and what their profiles are, really do look like hypersonic threats,” he said.
Ballistic missiles as they approach impact are hypersonic, as are many maneuverable cruise missiles. “So if you’re the sailor on the deck of a ship, they all look the same to you,” Hill said. “If you’re a soldier manning a land-based battery, it’s going to be maneuvering and coming in very quickly at hypersonic speeds. If you’re one of the airmen that’s manning one of the many sensors that are out there, it’s going to look fast, and it’s going to be moving quickly.”
So, the hypersonic threat already exists. The Missile Defense Agency now must adapt as the threat morphs, Hill said. Right now, the hypersonic threat is almost ancillary to the capabilities of ballistic and cruise missiles, he added, but as competitors test and build, that threat will become more sophisticated.
“We’re defending the United States, our deployed forces, our allies and friends from missile attacks in all phases of flight,” Hill said. It