Russian air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missile carried on a MiG-31. A former deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency on Tuesday sai the US needs to more quickly develop a defense against these weapons, as Russia and China move forward in the development of hypersonic missiles. Russian Ministry of Defense photo.
The former deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency on
Tuesday called on US officials to quickly move to develop a defense against
Kenneth Todorov, a former Air Force brigadier general and now
Northrop Grumman’s vice president of missile defense solutions, told a Mitchell Institute
breakfast in Washington, D.C., that the current US ballistic missile defense system is
“really not arrayed” for the hypersonic threat.
“Our current array of sensors, effectors, command-and-control
networks, are not … designed or capable to deal with this threat,” said Todorov, who was the MDA deputy director from 2014-15.
“Those systems weren’t designed at the outset for it, they
weren’t developed, they’re not tested—although we’re starting to test our
systems for hypersonic threat, but in a very sort of basic way,” he said.
“But I think all
would agree that our systems today are insufficient to deal with it,” he said.
To respond, he said, the US must act quickly with a solution
that must “start with space,” with assets able to acquire and track targets and
take action, and must include a new effector, possibly including offensive
hypersonic capabilities. It must also
take employ capabilities to deal with hypersonic vehicles in different ways, “but
it needs to be layered, because I think one approach in and of itself is not
going to be sufficient.”
In addition he said, non-kinetic means should be considered,
pointing to discussions about boost-phase intercepts, directed energy, and
electronic warfare means to counter hypersonic threats.
Finally, he said this must be done rapidly.
“Hypersonic defense cannot be a program that we envision in
2030 and 2035, this huge, behemoth kind of program,” he said. “The threat is real and it’s here today, and our adversaries
continue to develop it in a really real way, so this can’t be a program that
exists in 2030 or 2035. We’ve got to be
able to take existing technologies and apply them to the counter-hypersonics
“And, I think, because of that, we can do this in
an affordable way.”
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