The U.S. Air Force used a hyper velocity projectile (HVP), capable of traveling Mach 7.3, or about 5,600 mph, fired from an Army M109 howitzer tank, to shoot down a fast-moving cruise missile over a missile range in New Mexico.
"Tanks shooting down cruise missiles is awesome," Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics, told reporters, who was quoted by Asia Times. "Video game, sci-fi awesome.
"You're not supposed to be able to shoot down a cruise missile with a tank. But, yes, you can, if the bullet is smart enough, and the bullet we use for that system is exceptionally smart," Roper said.
Main battle tanks, nevertheless a self-propelled 155 mm howitzer, are not designed to destroy fast-moving cruise missiles, suggests the HVP "smart bullet" is ground-breaking technology that could revolutionize the modern battlefield.
The successful firing of the HVP was conducted at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, destroyed a "surrogate" Russian cruise missile target using the Air Force's Advanced Battle Management System that's designed to detect incoming missiles.
HVP was initially developed in 2013 to fire out of the electromagnetic railgun. However, the Pentagon's Strategic Capabilities Office has shifted to firing the HVP out of more conventional guns, such as common artillery pieces found on the battlefield.
The advantage of the HVP over conventional missile defenses is a dramatic decline in cost-per-kill. Each HVP costs around $85,000, opposed to $1.5 million Tomahawk missiles, $155,000 Hellfire rockets, and or $147,000 Javelin shoulder-rocket.
So what does this mean? Well, the Pentagon can shoot a lot more of these smart bullets and not feel bad they're robbing taxpayers. There's also a strategic component to HVP, that is, precision-guided short-range defense at hypersonic speeds to take out enemy missiles.