US fast-tracking hypersonic weapons and will deploy space-based defenses

Hypersonic weapons are weapons and vehicles that can move faster than 5 times the speed of sound. Russia and China have both deployed new rockets that are tipped with hypersonic warheads. The US has had hypersonic weapons development for decades but is now speeding offensive and defensive systems.

Michael Griffin, the undersecretary of defense said a rough estimate for deploying space-based interceptors can be calculated on the $20,000 per kilogram is costs to send material into low earth orbit. Griffin talked about a force of 1,000 space-based interceptors each weighing 1,000 kilograms would cost $20 billion.

In 2017, the congressional defense authorization bill directed the Pentagon to draw up proposals for space-based missile defenses.

John Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy, said his office is working on plans for missile defences in space, including both sensors and interceptors. Space-based defenses also will permit so-called “boost-phase” defense—attacking missiles before they are launched, or shortly after launch in the boost phase of flight.

A multi-billion collar deployment of thousands of space-based intercept would likely be contracts that would be won by SpaceX. SpaceX is the lowest cost launcher to space and has the highest volume of launches.

Greaves, the Missile Defense Agency director, said rapidly preparing to counter advanced missile threats such as hypersonic weapons is one of three priorities for his agency.

Rapid prototyping to accelerate hypersonic weapon development

The US Air Force hypersonic weapons development team will soon release details of a hypersonic weapons acceleration plan.

There will be an aggressive new Air Force hypersonic weapons prototyping and demonstration program so that hypersonic missiles, drones and planes can be developed in years instead of decades.

Part of the acceleration is to not wait for “100-percent” solutions but proceed with highly impactful “90-percent” solution. They will have fast-tracked procurement efforts of faster software enhancements, innovations and promising combat technologies likely to have a substantial near-term impact.