Hypersonic Threats Need an Offense-Defense Mix

Photo Credit: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, “Russian Federation takes measures to strengthen its military potential. New strategic armaments systems are developed to enhance defence capacity of Russia, prevent any aggression against this country and its allies. An aviation squadron equipped with Kinzhal systems with hypersonic missiles has been on test combat standby since December 1, 2017 in the Southern Military District. Flight and engineering staff of the squadron learn to operate new equipment and armaments and refine their training skills. During the test combat duty they carried out more than 350 sorties including more than 70 sorties involving in-flight refuelling. Since April 2018, MiG-31 aircraft equipped with Kinzhal complexes have been on scheduled air patrol over the Caspian Sea within strategic deterrence. During the ongoing events, personnel aquire skills to prepare and fulfil assigned tasks, including operational airfields. A flight tactical exercise was carried out to practice jointly with long-range aviation engaging ground and naval targets. During the exercise, personnel worked out planning, preparing and joint operating of Kinzhal missile systems and Tu-22m3 long-range bombers. Fighter jets also trained covering aviation attack group. Different types of aviation attack systems proved to be efficient in joint actions when delivering missile strikes at hostile objectives during the drills. As a result, all tasks have been accomplished with high quality and within the established deadlines. Flight personnel acquired necessary skills of joint warfare when engaging ground and naval targets. Test flights are being conducted simultaneously with test combat alert to enhance combat potential of the Kinzhal system,” at 1:37 of 2:10, Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation Facebook post, July 19, 2018, 12:00 AM, accessed July 20, 2018, https://www.facebook.com/mod.mil.rus/videos/2138691943040217/.

Next week, people from across the missile defense community will gather at an annual symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, to consider how to adapt U.S. missile defense efforts to the challenge of renewed competition with Russia and China. A centerpiece of their discussions will be the emergence of advanced hypersonic missile threats and what to do about them.

Over the past few years, the Pentagon has prioritized the development of offensive hypersonic strike weapons, with billions of dollars in contracts already awarded for each of the major military services to acquire hypersonic strike missiles of their own.

The counter-hypersonic mission, however, received surprisingly short shrift in recent defense budgets, with progress on hypersonic defense thus far piecemeal and halting. Some leading military officials charged with procuring hypersonic strike missiles have said that defending against hypersonic missiles is too hard, so we shouldn’t even try.

That short-sighted approach is at odds with the vision of newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who stated to Congress that he will advocate hypersonic missile defense, to include the development of new sensors, interceptors, and advanced command-and-control systems.

Read the full Defense News article.