How the Pentagon Plans to Deter Hypersonic Missile Attacks

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If there is a way to stop hypersonic missile attacks, then it will likely rely heavily upon data sharing, high-speed data processing and artificial intelligence.

The challenge is to establish a continuous track of an attack weapon moving more than five times the speed of sound while implementing a countermeasure. That countermeasure could involve the deployment of an interceptor fast enough to achieve a kinetic “hit” of a hypersonic weapon or some method of “jamming” or disrupting the missile’s flight trajectory or airflow.  

The Defense Department, Missile Defense Agency, and defense industry are working on multiple programs with which to establish a continuous track. A missile traveling at hypersonic speeds will pass from the coverage area of one radar to another, which means the Defense Department could lose track of it. That is why the Defense Department is focused on developing new Hypersonic Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor technology that would establish a continuous track of fast-moving hypersonic missiles from “beyond-line-of-sight” by networking small satellites to one another. 

“A method of doing that is potentially processing some of that data in real-time to a weapons database and transfer that data from the satellite system down to the weapon,” Mike Ciffone, Northrop Grumman’s director of Strategy, Capture & Operations, Overhead Persistent Infrared & Geospatial Systems, told reports at the Space Missile and Defense Symposium in August. For instance, some of the data processing can potentially be artificial-intelligence-enabled and also performed at the point of data receipt, essentially wherever the incoming sensor data first arrives.  

Computer processing is becoming faster and increasingly dependent on artificial intelligence. A series of technical breakthroughs enable incoming sensor data to be instantly analyzed, organized, assessed and streamlined. This technology makes it possible to find key information and send it to military commanders at speeds exponentially faster than what was previously possible. Eventually, critical data, such as anticipated flight path, landing time, location, speed and altitude can be calculated by advanced computer algorithms. These algorithms will enable a fast exchange of information across previously disaggregated areas. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. 

Image: Reuters

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