US Missile Test Fails, Was Russia Watching? ⋆ Conservative Firing Line

US Missile Test Fails, Was Russia Watching? ⋆ Conservative Firing Line

In the waters of the North sea, a detachment of ships of the Baltic Fleet consisting of the corvettes “Steregushchiy” and “Soobrazitelny” conducted electronic missile launches with “Uran” missile systems at targets that imitate a detachment of warships of a mock enemy. Missile firing was carried out by corvettes simultaneously with the use of anti-ship missile systems. (Russian Ministry of Defense)

The Russian website Sputnik reported the Pentagon official’s remarks from April, and linked to the various American sites that also reported them. Also a PDF of her remarks was released and labelled “not for publication until released by the subcommittee.”

Director of Defense Research and Engineering for Research and Technology Barbara McQuiston told a Senate defense committee on Wednesday that the MDA and US Navy had already seen promising signs the advanced SM-6 missile could shoot down “an advanced maneuvering threat-representative target” – a capability they intend to test later this year and continue developing into 2024.

“We are also working with the Missile Defense Agency to accelerate a comprehensive layered defeat capability against adversary tactical hypersonic weapons including kinetic defense in the terminal and glide phases of flight, as well as left-of-launch strike of missile launch complexes,” McQuiston further said. Left-of-launch refers to sabotaging missile programs during their development or even individual missiles on their launch sites to prevent them from being fielded or used. It can also include pre-emptive strikes.

As The War Zone noted, “advanced maneuvering threat” is Pentagon lingo for a hypersonic boost glide vehicle, the unpowered ultra-maneuverable device that nimbly delivers the warhead to its target after being accelerated beyond Mach 5 by a rocket engine.

Hypersonic weapons are notoriously hard to spot and track. The existing Space-Based Infrared System the Pentagon uses to pinpoint ballistic missile launches works by spotting the intense heat from their rocket engines, which stands out against the background heat from the Earth. However, hypersonic missiles don’t use their rocket engines for nearly as long as ballistic missiles, giving the satellites less time to figure out their trajectory before the engine cuts off and the unpowered glide vehicle “goes cold,” disappearing from infrared view. To fill this dangerous hole in US defenses, the Space Force has contracted for a new generation of wide- and medium-field-of-view satellites.

It’s possible the radars on US anti-ballistic missile systems, like the Patriot and THAAD, could also track hypersonic weapons. However, it’s one thing to spot a hypersonic missile – it’s wholly another to shoot one down. Sergei Surovikin, commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces, has said the forthcoming S-500 Prometheus air defense system will be able to shoot down hypersonic weapons and noted that “a certain amount of tweaking” would allow S-400 Triumf and 9K37 Buk missile systems to do so as well. (April 2021)

US Missile test failures are learning experiences for those involved in the programs. When they fail, investigations are conduct to determine the cause. In 2019, a missile test failed because a sailor got the inputs wrong for the launch. They’ll get it right, guaranteed. Meanwhile, Russia is watching and learning from every direction…including sending a surveillance ship to listen in.

H/T Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children


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