Hypersonic glide missiles would penetrate existing missile defences

The USA, Russia and China are developing a new class of hypersonic ballistic glider weapons, which within a decade, may render most of the world’s nuclear arsenals vulnerable to lightning-fast penetration and attack.

Although boost-glide [or hyperglide vehicles (HGVs)] weapons would be launched by ballistic missiles and reach hypersonic speeds of at least Mach 5 or more, they would remain maneuverable and largely untrackable after the initial boost phase of their flight. And unlike an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), an HGV’s aerodynamics enables it to generate enough “lift” to potentially glide over distances approaching ten thousand kilometers. All before hitting their targets with accuracies down to a few meters.

American efforts are focused on the estimated $2.4 billion Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW), which would have a range of about 8,000 kilometers. The AHW program is primarily an in-house effort involving Sandia National Labs and the Army Space and Missile command. Current U.S. glider efforts are still very much in the research and development phase.

Although Russia’s glider program — known as Project 4202 — and China, with its own DF-ZF hypersonic glider vehicle — are testing more frequently, Acton maintains that current evidence strongly suggests that the U.S. still has a clear lead.

Hypersonic gliders would seemingly be ideal for quickly taking out terrorist targets, since they could strike almost anywhere on the globe within an hour of launch. The gliders’ untrackability stems from the fact that they travel at much lower altitudes than ballistic missiles and are generally invisible to ground-based radar. So, they would also be able to arrive at their targets without warning.

Russia’s YU_74 hypersonic glide missile will be carried atop a new ICBM the RS-28

Russia will deploy its new RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles to units in Siberia and the southern Urals when the enormous new weapon becomes operational in 2018. The massive liquid-fueled missiles will replace the existing Cold War-era R-36M2 Voyevoda (SS-18 Satan) ICBM—which is the largest such weapon ever built.

The Sarmat will weigh at least 100-tons and carry a 10-ton payload. That means the missile could carry as many as 15 independently targeted thermo-nuclear warheads. It has a range of at least 6,000 miles. Once it is operational, it will be the largest ICBM ever built.

News reports out of the Russian English-language media indicate that the Sarmat will be armed with Yu-74 hypersonic glide vehicles rather than (or perhaps in addition to) conventional ballistic warheads. Sputnik, citing an analytical website called Ostkraft.ru, reports that what they call a Yu-74 vehicle was flight tested from on top of an RS-18A (NATO designation SS-19) ICBM in April. The vehicle was launched from the Dombarovsky missile base and hit its target in the Kura test range in Kamchatka, the details of which remain secret. Designed to carry up to 24 nuclear-loaded Yu-74 gliders, each Sarmat ballistic missile will be able to hit any target located within a six-thousand-mile radius within one hour, Sputnik reports. Each Yu-74 glider can be equipped with a nuclear warhead, electronic warfare (EW) applications, or false target simulators.

SOURCES- National Interest, Forbes, Larouche, Wikipedia