The second half of the hypersonic weapons arms race

  In the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Russia tried to use hypersonic weapons to strike targets in Ukraine, and achieved certain results, making this category of new concept weapons and equipment a reality on the battlefield. Although from a situational point of view, hypersonic weapons do not seem to be a key weapon and equipment that can change the outcome of wars, it poses a realistic question to all countries – how to defend against hypersonic weapons?
  At present, China, the United States and Russia are all making full efforts to develop and equip hypersonic weapons. Even the United States, which is the most backward in progress, will develop and manufacture a variety of hypersonic missiles to equip sea, land and air platforms by 2030. It can be seen that 2030 will be a watershed in the confrontation between major powers. China, the United States and Russia are not only equipped with a large number of hypersonic weapons, but also threatened by a large number of such weapons.
  Due to the clear technical route for the development of hypersonic weapons, subversive technologies are no longer required for continued development, but only need to be updated and iterated on existing technologies. Therefore, this project can be said to have completed the first half of the competition, and it may really have an impact on the future. The decisive influence is the technology of anti-hypersonic weapons. If a country can take the lead in completing the equipment of anti-hypersonic weapons, it will be enough to offset the strategic advantages of other major powers and gain dominance in future wars. Therefore, the technological competition in this area has begun to enter a white-hot stage. So why are hypersonic weapons so hard to defend against? What kind of black technology is needed to shoot them down?
  There are three development paths for hypersonic missiles: The first is the simplest aviation ballistic weapon, such as the Dagger missile used by Russia in Ukraine, which is actually a variant of the ground-launched Iskander missile, which is launched by the MiG-31 fighter at high speed. Climb to an altitude of 10,000 meters to launch, and then be propelled to a higher speed by a missile rocket engine, relying on gravity for unpowered gliding flight and reaching a maximum speed of 10 times the speed of sound; the second technical route is a hypersonic gliding vehicle, such as Dongfeng 17 It is the representative of this type of technology. Such missiles are first launched out of the atmosphere by rockets, and then rely on the earth’s gravity for unpowered drift flight after entering the atmosphere; the third technical route is hypersonic scramjet cruise missiles , The advantage of this missile is that it is in powered flight almost all the way, so it is easier to change the trajectory to avoid interception, and the change of the trajectory height is more complicated. It is regarded as the ultimate form of hypersonic weapons, and it is also the most difficult to intercept. form.
  Judging from the existing technology, in order to achieve the interception of hypersonic weapons, the most important problem that needs to be solved is to improve the early warning and surveillance capabilities. The existing long-range missile interception and early warning systems are mainly aimed at traditional ballistic missiles – although the speed of ICBMs can reach Mach 20, which is much higher than the current so-called hypersonic weapons, the characteristics of such missiles are that the flight process is a parabola. The rocket propulsion characteristics of the ballistic missile launch and climbing stage are very obvious, and it will quickly climb out of the atmosphere. The missile early warning system mainly relies on infrared thermal imaging to judge the missile launch, and can quickly judge the flight direction according to its speed and launch location. The trajectory of the projectile can then be determined.
  Therefore, although the hypersonic glide vehicle has the characteristics of ballistic missile launch, and early warning is easy to achieve, it is difficult to track and determine the interception point due to its unstable trajectory after re-entry into the atmosphere; as for aviation ballistic weapons and hypersonic scramjet cruise missiles , because it can fly in the atmosphere all the way, so it is likely to be ignored by the early ballistic missile early warning system.

  In short, in order to implement early warning of this new type of missile, on the one hand, it is necessary to equip a higher-resolution infrared thermal imaging sensor satellite, and at the same time, it is necessary to optimize and upgrade the existing system so that it can correctly identify the ultra-high temperature inside and outside the atmosphere. Sonic target. In order to intercept hypersonic scramjet cruise missiles with more tricky ballistics, a suitable number of high-performance integrated remote sensing satellites must be deployed in higher earth orbits, which should include thermal imaging and integrated photoelectric remote sensing capabilities for timely early warning of missiles .
  In addition to upgrading the early warning system, the radar of ground interception missiles also needs to be upgraded to enable it to identify and track hypersonic targets. Of course, this technology is actually the easiest to implement because of the phase control of the new generation of anti-missile systems. The performance of the array radar is quite excessive, and it only needs a small optimization to complete the task. The real trouble lies in the insufficient performance of the interceptor. Taking the US THAAD system as an example, the interceptor’s speed is only Mach 8, and it cannot effectively deal with hypersonic missiles with high maneuverability and speeds exceeding Mach 10. Therefore, the interceptor must be upgraded. The maneuverability and speed of the projectile are required to deal with new threats.
  In addition, the United States is also fully developing directed energy weapons, and hopes to be used in missile interception operations. After all, the martial arts in the world are only fast, and no matter how fast a missile can fly, it is not as fast as a directed energy weapon. If the new concept weapon can be put into practice, it will undoubtedly play a role in turning things around. The competition for hypersonic weapons will enter the second half in the next ten years, which will be a hard-core duel of big power technology.

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