General Mark Milley provided the first confirmation of an intercontinental hypersonic weapons test by China this summer. The missile orbited the Earth and had a hypersonic stage that could change direction at speeds over five times the speed of sound. This is not something that can be shot down with current anti-missile technology.
Nextbigfuture would note that ICBMs (Intercontinental ballistic missiles) can only succeed in defense with optimal conditions. Tests that shoot down missiles have been done with lots of warning and no special anti-anti missile measures.
The US Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system has 44 interceptors. There were plans to add 20 interceptors by 2023 but this was delayed. There are efforts to develop capabilities to destroy a missile threat before it launches, and to create a space-sensor layer to provide birth-to-death tracking of ballistic missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles.
If every ground-based interceptor could hit and took down an ICBM then 44 could be stopped. Russia has about 2000, so 2.2% of Russia’s capability overwhelms the US system. Plus the likely success rate would be down at about 20% or less. China has about 200 long-range nuclear missiles and is expanding its silos and likely increasing their missiles.
Between 1985 and 2019 the US spent about $200 billion on missile defense. The US is currently spending about $10 billion per year on missile defense.
Also, China or Russia could launch an EMP missile first. This would be a nuke that explodes at high altitude before any ground-based systems can defend and the EMP messes up the defense systems unless the anti-electro magnetic pulse systems are perfect. Then follow up missiles would hit the defenses before hitting main targets.
The US can catch up with hypersonic systems at any time by paying SpaceX to develop a military version of the Starship. This would then become a 100 ton payload hypersonic bomber.
SOURCES- Reuters, Arms control
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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