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MDA Enters First Phase of Defensive Hypersonic Weapon Development

Hypersonic defense

MDA Enters First Phase of Defensive Hypersonic Weapon Development

The Missile Defense Agency has started the first phase of building a defensive hypersonic weapon after the effort was put on hold in August 2020.

MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill told attendees at an SMD symposium that the agency plans on building a missile capable of intercepting hypersonic weapons in the glide phase of flight, where they are most vulnerable.

According to Hill, industry has provided great feedback and risk reduction efforts are underway, with a systems requirements review and industry team selection scheduled for 2021, Defense News reported.

While the MDA cannot yet say when the capability will be fielded, it has been confirmed that the Navy will be the first to use the glide phase interceptor. If demonstrations with the Navy yield positive results, land-based interceptor batteries would follow, Hill said.

Moving forward, the MDA plans to focus its development efforts on the front-end component of the GPI. No progress has been made with the actual weapon as Hill argued that existing options like the SM-3 and SM-6 interceptors are not viable.

GPI is expected to work as part of a multi-layered hypersonic defensive capability. Hill presented a short video during the symposium showing how various systems might work together to take down enemy threats.

The missile interception process starts with the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor. HBTSS feeds real-time data to the Ballistic Missile Defense System Overhead Persistent Infrared Architecture, which creates a track for the GPI to follow. An Aegis ship follows through by using its remote tracking and engage-on-remote capability to launch the GPI.

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