Author`s name Alexander Artamonov

USA's new hypersonic missile unable to defend the exceptional nation

Navy Vice Admiral John Anthony Hill, Director of the US Missile Defense Agency, said the Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) missile could intercept a hypersonic missile. American journalist Joseph Trevithick quoted his opinion in the article (SM-6 Missiles Are America's Only Defense Against Hypersonic Weapons Missile Defense Chief Says), published by the The Drive on February 2 under the War Zone rubric.

Recurrence of sluggish declarations

This is not the first time, when John Hill, a specialist, who, by the way, does not hold a profile diploma in the field of rocket and aircraft engineering, made such a statement. The US officer may have our sympathies at this point. The Agency that he currently chairs has been trying to implement the GPI (Glide Phase Interceptor) program to improve the US missile defense system for two years already, although to no avail.

In the spring of 2019, the vice admiral announced that the Regional Glide Phase Weapon System could be integrated with the existing universal launcher Mk 41, which could be mounted both on warships and ground-based facilities. However, the RGPWS program was later curtailed and replaced with a new one — GPI, which is now in its infancy.

However, given the modest funds that US Congress allocated for the implementation of the program, such results do not seem to be surprising. Thus, in 2020, the military requested only 116.7 million dollars to create a new long-range modification of the SM-6/Block IB. In general, this program will cost US taxpayers almost $380 million. This is insignificant money for the creation of a fundamentally new type of weapon. For comparison, according to Boeing Corporation, the creation of a new type of a passenger airliner costs from at least to 1.5 to 2 billion dollars. At the same time, according to the plans of the US Department of Defense, the long-range SM-6 Block IB will not appear before 2024.

In the spring of 2020, US Deputy Defense Department Michael Griffin, who is in charge of research and development works in the military field, also reported on the status of the project to create an improved version of the SM-6 missile. Griffin also announced that the product could be put to the test as early as in 2023.

On April 16, 2021, the website of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance that specializes on military hypersound said that the SM-6 missile successfully handled the advanced maneuvering threat. Neither the date nor the location of the test site was specified, though.

Barbara McQuiston, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, spoke before the relevant commission of US Congress on December 8 about a breakthrough in the development of the new hypersonic missile. The information about her speech appeared on December 9 in a special report to Congress signed by Ronald O'Rourke.

Curiously, John Hill, Barbara McQuiston and Ronald O'Rourke do not belong to the ranks of rocket science engineers. They are officials, who carry responsibility. Therefore, in the absence of the necessary references and clarifications, their crackling statements can be regarded as unfounded.

What is the SM-6 today?

Reference:

RIM-174 (Extended Range Active Missile (ERAM) Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) is a Raytheon two-stage system with solid propellant engines. It has Mach 3.5 speed, its length is 6.6 meters (max diameter — 530 mm). The launch weight of the missile is about 1.5 tons, with 64 kg accounting for the fragmentation warhead. The product is equipped with an inertial navigation system and seeker, that is, a homing head that operates both in active and passive modes. The firing range of the first serial modification of Block 1A is insignificant: it does not exceed 240 kilometers (although, according to some reports, after replacing the power plant, the range was increased to 400 km). The maximum altitude is 34 km. Since 2013, at least 500 pieces have been produced and 1,800 have been ordered.

It is worth noting here that the Mk 41 complex that is used to launch the SM-6 is installed on Ticonderoga project cruisers and Arleigh Burke destroyers. It is also used for the Aegis Ashore stationary ground complex. At the same time, according to the US military, the missile was also successfully used against air targets with guidance correction using the F-35 fighter.

After the completion of development works, the SM-6 Block IB of Flight III series may become the main missile for Zumwalt and Arleigh Burke class destroyers.

Joseph Trevithick is pessimistic about the fabulous capabilities of the SM-6. According to him, if there is a possibility to intercept hypersonic targets (which he strongly doubts), then it can be possible only for separately modified pieces of such systems.

Russian specialized experts rightly note that the ability of an anti-missile to reach speeds higher than Mach 5 does not mean that it will be able to destroy a maneuvering target. In 2021, the SM-6 failed to neutralize a conventional ballistic target.

Military analyst Colonel Yuri Knutov believes that American anti-missiles are not capable of maneuvering similarly to Russian hypersonic warheads. Therefore, the SM-6 will not be able to keep up with them. In addition, in order to intercept missiles capable of accelerating to Mach 5, one needs to have special stations for detecting such warheads, the expert noted.

Professionals know that to successfully hit a target, the interceptor should develop a speed that would double the speed of the target. The ideal ratio at this point is 1:3 or even higher. Meanwhile, the SM-6, as mentioned above, is not a hypersonic missile at all: its maximum speed does not exceed Mach 3.5, which is one sound speed below the hypersonic threshold.

Is it possible to shoot down a hypersonic target?

US officials claim that the SM-6 will be able to intercept Russia's state-of-the-art Avangard, Zircon, or Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. Foreign analysts say that the Russian hypersonic missiles are vulnerable in the active — accelerating — section of the trajectory. Their launch is clearly visible from space, just like the launch of any other intercontinental ballistic missile.

In addition, foreign analysts develop their idea by saying that when approaching the target, the above-mentioned Russian hypersonic missiles will slow their speed down not to miss the target.

In addition to the SM-6, the Americans can also use THAAD missiles, which showed exceptional results and can reach speeds of up to Mach 8.5, which is a hypersonic speed.

Firstly, the launch of hypersonic missiles can indeed be seen from space, but in order to see it, one needs to constantly monitor almost the entire surface of the globe. Russia may launch its hypersonic missile from a strategic bomber aircraft, a MiG-31 high-altitude interceptor aircraft, and from a nuclear submarine, the location of which is unknown.

It is also important to note that in order to aim, the American anti-missile simply needs a radar system capable of detecting hypersonic targets. A report that US Congress prepared in the beginning of December 2021 said that Russia was the only country that had such a radar complex — Rezonans-N. Therefore, the development of hypersonic speed will not give any advantage to the US missile.

Speaking of Russia's Avangard system, one should not forget that this warhead is not a missile, but a glider capable of active maneuvering at most unimaginable angles unreachable for any missile. Flying at speeds up to Mach 27, the system uses colossal inertia and has little restriction in maneuver. The anti-missile maneuver is based on the fuel limit in the first place. Therefore, chasing the Avangard or the Zircon is a hopeless mission.

The United States has found itself defenseless against an external threat for the first time in history. It appears that many other countries of the world are aware of that too, and they are getting ready for a new era of international relations, without the USA, to come.

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