US Missile Killer program Glide Phase Interceptor simply not ready

Glide Phase Interceptor :

The head of the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has stated that the Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) programme, which is aimed at destroying hypersonic missiles, may not be available in the next decade.

Vice Adm. Jon Hill remarked at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “We’re just getting started.”

To establish a “layered” defence against incoming ballistic and hypersonic missiles, the MDA is developing a wide range of missile tracking sensors and defeat capabilities.

The GPI is one of them, and it’s designed to track hypersonic missiles during their glide phase of flight (when they’ve re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and are heading toward their target), which is difficult to predict because the missiles travel at five times the speed of sound while making rapid evasive manoeuvres.

The interceptors will be integrated into the US Navy’s current Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense destroyers, with the interceptor being launched from the VLS, which is coupled to the Baseline 9 Aegis Weapon System, which detects, tracks, controls, and engages hypersonic threats.

Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon were chosen by the MDA to design the Glide Phase Interceptor last November (GPI). Raytheon Missiles and Defense, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman each received $20.97 million, $20.94 million, and $18.95 million, respectively. By September 2022, each vendor must submit concept ideas for prototypes.

“We have three excellent proposals, and we may opt to keep all three, reduce to two, or eliminate one.” As a result, it all depends,” Hill explained.

Hypersonic Missiles from China and Russia

In recent years, the United States has become increasingly concerned about the threat presented by China and Russia’s hypersonic weapons.

China tested its hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) in July of last year, causing significant alarm and panic among US military brass. According to a report by the US Defense Intelligence Agency, the glide vehicle travelled 24,800 miles (39,911 kilometres) in space before re-entering the atmosphere and reaching the terrestrial target (DIA).

The flight test lasted more than 100 minutes, according to the DIA report, making it “the highest distance flown and longest flight length of any Chinese land-attack weapons system to date.”

China is believed to possess the Dong Feng-17 (DF-17) medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM), which is capable of carrying the DF-ZF HGV. The missile itself has a Mach 5-10 top speed and can carry conventional or nuclear bombs. It has a range of 1,800-2,500 kilometres and weighs 15,000 kilogrammes when launched.

The DF-ZF HGV can reach speeds of Mach 5-10 and is believed to be capable of evasive manoeuvres to circumvent enemy defences. The DF-17 is a ground-launched missile, however an air-launched version based on the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine jet bomber could be developed and deployed on the Xian H-6N bomber, the latest model of the H-6 series bombers.

The H-6N has an 8,000-kilometer range, and if equipped with the DF-17, it can expand that range to 10,000–11,000 kilometres, placing critical enemy locations across the Indo-Pacific into range.

In 2020, a video leaked showing an H-6N bomber arriving at an unknown airstrip with a missile that looked similar to the DF-17 hypersonic missile and had a warhead and booster portion on the bottom of its fuselage.

Meanwhile, Russia has created the Avangard HGV, which can carry both nuclear and conventional payloads and has a range of over 6,000 kilometres. The nuclear warhead on the HGV is “more than two megatons in TNT equivalent,” according to a TASS report.

The SS-19 “Stiletto” (UR-100NUTTH) ballistic missile currently carries the Avangard, but it is set to be replaced by the R-28 Sarmat, which was just successfully tested and is expected to be deployed later this year.

According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the HGV can cruise at speeds up to Mach 20 in the atmosphere and manoeuvre to make its trajectory unpredictable for air and missile defence systems to intercept. Furthermore, it is said to be able to deploy countermeasures during flight to confound defence systems.

Interceptor SM-6

SM-6 Interceptor

The SM-6 series interceptor is currently the US’s only counter-hypersonic capability, albeit the specific variant of the missile is unknown. The SM-6 can intercept the hypersonic missile as it approaches the target in its terminal phase.

Given the high speed of hypersonic weapons, the terminal-phase SM-6 interceptor’s coverage is insufficient. As a result, the MDA’s GPI programme is critical to the agency’s future work defending against hypersonic missile threats, as it would target hypersonic missiles further away during their glide phase of flight.

MDA and the Space Development Agency are also developing Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to supplement existing missile warning/tracking satellites that may lose hypersonic missiles after they have completed their boost phase.

The HBTSS is designed to detect missile launches as well as the separation of the first, second, and third stages. The GPI would be connected to HBTSS for updated tracking data after being fired by the Aegis BMD system on a Navy destroyer, and the interceptor would kill the danger before it got too close to its intended target.

The HBTSS will be put into orbit for a demonstration next year.

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