US Defense Agency Wants Battlespace To Combat Russia And China Hypersonic Weapons

The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) submitted a request for highly maneuvrable Mach 5 missile interceptors to combat the hypersonic threat from Russia and China. The solicitation was submitted to the Department of Defense (DOD) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program, a congressionally mandated program coordinated by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to obtain innovative defense solutions from private industry to address defense technology gaps.

"The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals, their country of origin, and what tasks each would accomplish in the statement of work in accordance with section 5.4.c.(8) of the Announcement," said the MDA.

According to the description of the solicitation, the MDA is searching for hypersonic missiles that have extraordinary aerodynamic controls to intercept Russian or Chinese hypersonic weapons.

"Concepts should focus on maximizing maneuverability and minimizing kinetic energy losses to the greatest extent possible while allowing controlled flight in a hypersonic environment.

Studies may include various geometries, materials, positioning for control surfaces, or other innovative concepts. Proposers may assume vehicles are simple conical shapes or shapes with greater lift-drag ratios. Proposers may also assume a range of velocities above Mach 5 and a range of altitudes up to 50 kilometers. Solutions could have applicability to small interceptors, such as projectiles shorter than one meter or larger interceptors, such as missiles over 5 meters long," said the MDA.

MDA recently asked for $120.4 million in FY19 for hypersonic defense research. Current missile interceptors are not designed to defend against hypersonic missiles, and that MDA wants to transform interceptors into anti-hypersonic weapons.

The request provides a complete breakdown of how the program will rollout once the MDA selects the proper technology.

  • PHASE I: Perform analysis on promising aerodynamic control concepts to include modeling and/or limited wind tunnel assessment. Estimate the maneuverability and kinetic energy loss for maneuvers at a range of Mach numbers and altitudes. Down select to one or two preferred design concepts.
  • PHASE II: Work with a missile defense system integrator to mature the selected geometry and design. Obtain higher fidelity estimates of performance. Test in a representative environment such as a wind tunnel.
  • PHASE III DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: Work with a system integrator to refine requirements and integrate into a full guidance navigation and control system. Demonstrate the technology in a representative environment. Transition the technology into a missile defense application.

Earlier this month, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) debuted its Glide Breakers program at D60 Symposium, a three-day conference honoring the organization's 60th anniversary.

The program will research “component technologies” needed for one or more defense systems but will focus heavily on a kinetic-force weapon to intercept high-speed enemy missiles.

With Russia and China jumping ahead of the US with superior hypersonic weapons, it seems that multiple agencies within the Pentagon are seeking to develop various forms of hypersonic interceptors -- on short notice.

While many believe American Hegemony is here to stay, there is a strong possibility that it could be somewhat displaced in the coming years as China and Russia now lead the hypersonic race. MDA's request for Mach 5 hypersonic missile interceptors and DARPA's Glide Breaker program, should be viewed as a defensive maneuver by Washington, as US Admiral Harry Harris, former head of the US Pacific Command and now the ambassador to South Korea, said, “China’s hypersonic weapons development outpaces ours… we’re falling behind.”