Will S-500 system be good against Minotaur IV?
On December 16, Russian military experts gathered for a round table discussion organized by RIA Novosti news agency. The experts came to conclusion that one of the major tasks for the future missile defense system would be the struggle against hypersonic weapons of potential enemies.
Igor Korotchenko, an official with the Russian Defense Ministry, said during the conference that NATO countries, particularly the USA, had been developing a new generation of hypersonic strike weapons and hypersonic missile weapons (Prompt Global Strike).
It will be highly complicated to intercept the new missiles with the use of contemporary anti-missile systems. The flight-in time of the new weapon in comparison with air-based cruise missiles is reduced to mere minutes, which makes it impossible for the attacked side to take defense measures.
The Americans say that the hypersonic arms will be built to destroy terrorists, first and foremost. However, according to the documents of NATO's AGARD group, the hypersonic missiles will be developed to strike enemy's reinforced objects, ABM and AD systems, to obtain supremacy in the air, to effectively intercept ballistic missiles and destroy hypersonic assault weapons.
The appearance of such weapons in the United States will minimize the advantages of Russia's missile and nuclear shield. Military experts said during the discussion that Russia would not be able to defend its missile complexes - the basis of the national nuclear containment forces - in case of such an attack.
The threat of the appearance of hypersonic weapons in the Armed Forces of the United States requires adequate measures from Russia, which will include the development of space defense system and the fifth generation air defense system, experts believe.
The USA already has development prototypes of such weapons. It particularly goes about the ARRMD program - Affordable Rapid Response Missile Demonstrator - by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). The program stipulates the development of hypersonic guided air-to-ground and ship-to-shore long range missiles.
In May 2010, the United States tested two pilot items of the hypersonic cruise missile. Minotaur IV was one of them. According to experts' estimates, the missile is capable of striking targets in any part of the globe within just one hour.
The USA is also testing Х-51А Waverider hypersonic missile. The takeoff mass of this missile makes up 1.1 tons. The weight of the warhead is 110 kilos; its range is 1,200 kilometers. The flight speed of the missile is over 2,400 meters per second. The missile is to enter service in the US Army after 2015.
On May 13th, the next day after the USA tested Minotaur IV, former commander of the Russian Air Force Anatoly Korkunov and former head of procurement Anatoly Sitnov stated that the Russian air and space defense forces were incapable of guaranteeing security to the country.
What can Russia oppose to the new challenge from the United States?
Alexander Mordovin, an expert at the council for external and defense politics stated that the creation of new missiles would pose a serious problem for Russia.
"Conventional cruise missiles could be destroyed by fighter jets, but in this case it would be very problematic. Fourth and fifth-generation fighter jets can fly at low altitudes not faster than 1,300 km/h. The hypersonic weapons will be made to fly at low altitudes, which makes it very hard to destroy them in the air. Russia wrapped up its space defense program during Gorbachev's and Yeltsin's times, including the combat lasers project. However, those lasers would be very helpful in fighting Minotaur-type missiles. One can hope for the development of the new S-500 complex. For the time being, one may say that Russia will remain vulnerable to possible attacks with the use of hypersonic weapons for a long time in the future," the expert said.