China’s Hypersonic Missiles Not Invulnerable to Missile Defense

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Hypersonic Glider

Responding to China’s recent hypersonic missile tests, MDAA (Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance) Chairman Riki Ellison stated that the Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGVs) could be vulnerable to ballistic missile defense (BMD) given adequate investments to upgrade existing U.S. BMD systems.

According to the MDAA’s website, current U.S. BMD systems use mathematical algorithms to target a ballistic missile as it follows a relatively predictable ballistic trajectory. HGVs, the MDAA Chairman explains, “defeat this logic by not travelling in a ballistic path…maneuvering at hypersonic speeds inside the atmosphere” to their targets.

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An HGV “is launched like a ballistic missile or rocket but does not go into space, and releases in high altitude, skipping and gliding irregularly across thin air before going into a downward, hypersonic, highly maneuverable and evasive path…before striking its target.”

Nevertheless, these weapons could be vulnerable to interceptors at certain stages of their flight. The U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, Ellison points out, “operates and intercepts at high altitudes where the HGV flies before maneuvering.”

“Continuing to develop the THAAD system to add an additional stage to increase its speed and range…should be considered as an effective way to defeat the HGV threat.” Says Ellison.

Another system that could be adapted to address the HGV threat is the SM-6 Interceptor, which is designed to destroy maneuverable cruise missiles flying lower in the atmosphere.

“All of these options should be considered, studied, eventually chosen and invested in.” Ellison concludes.