JUST IN: Pentagon Looking at New Interceptor to Defeat Hypersonic Missiles
Photo: Missile Defense Agency
The Pentagon is considering acquiring new interceptors to shoot down enemy hypersonic missiles, the director of the Missile Defense Agency said Feb. 1.
Hypersonic weapons such as those being pursued by China and Russia pose a unique challenge to existing U.S. missile defense systems because they are much faster than conventional cruise missiles — flying at speeds of Mach 5 or faster — and are more maneuverable than ballistic missiles that follow a predictable flight path.
Pentagon officials have been sounding the alarm about the emerging threat. It was featured prominently in the Trump administration’s new missile defense review that was released last month, and Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin has said countering hypersonics is one of his top priorities.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, the head of the Missile Defense Agency, said the Pentagon is looking at options.
“The agency … has completed an analysis of alternatives looking at hypersonic defense, of which fast interceptors are part of that solution. They are one option,” he said during a Q&A session at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
The analysis is “essentially assessing the current suite of available interceptors to see if they are fast enough to get to the target and win the tail chase, as you might say,” he added.
The analysis of alternatives is now in final coordination and review within the Defense Department and should be released soon, Greaves said.
“We have worked with industry to assess available interceptors as well as potential new interceptors to execute that mission” of defeating hypersonic missiles, he noted.
Greaves declined to say whether he favors moving forward with developing a new system.
“I will await the results of the analysis of alternatives because it needs to be coordinated and vetted and agreed to within the department,” he said. “If it is determined after that coordinated review that the current suite will not meet the need, the threat is there so we will need to develop something else,” he added.
While new kinetic interceptors are one potential option for thwarting enemy hypersonic missiles, directed energy weapons are another option that is being looked at, he noted.