Iran joins the club of hypersonic weapons


Important Takeaways:

  • According to the IRNA news agency, the Fattah-2 missile is equipped with a hypersonic glider warhead that places it “in the HGV… class of hypersonic weapons.”
  • Iranian media reported that the Islamic Republic had become only the fourth nation in the world to make use of such technology.
  • A hypersonic glide vehicle, or HGV, is a type of warhead that allows a rocket to maneuver and glide at hypersonic speeds
  • Very few nations have operational HGV missiles to date. One of them is Russia, which possesses the ‘Avangard’ gliders mounted on its silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles like the ‘Sarmat’.
  • The Russian HGV is capable of flying between 20 and 27 times faster than the speed of sound or between 24,000 and 33,000 kilometers per hour. It has a potential explosive yield of to two megatons, which is more than 100 times greater than the explosion produced by the US nuclear bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
  • In 2019, China officially put its DF-ZF HGV missile into service. Mounted on a road-mobile medium-range ballistic missile, the Chinese hypersonic glider can travel up to 10 times faster than the speed of sound at a speed of 12,360 kilometers per hour and carry a nuclear charge.
  • The US was expected to have its ‘Dark Eagle’ Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) enter service in September…
  • Little is known about Iran’s Fattah-2 missile, as the national media provided very few details on the projectile’s technical characteristics. Its predecessor, the Fattah missile that was officially unveiled less than six months ago, had a range of 1,400 kilometers and could travel between 13 and 15 times faster than the speed of sound.

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America’s hypersonic defense needs to be rethought

Matthew 24:6 “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Measuring the holes in America’s hypersonic defense
  • US reliance on Standard Missile-6 for its air defense leaves it increasingly vulnerable to China and Russia’s hypersonic weapons
  • Currently, US missile defense capabilities face significant political, technical and cost constraints, which could limit their effectiveness against hypersonic threats.
  • Political sensitivity to the deployment of missile defense systems in US ally countries can leave blind spots that open wider vulnerabilities. Such countries may be concerned about becoming the targets of an attack themselves.
  • The geographic limitations of missile defense radar mean that not all critical areas can be protected against attack
  • That’s noted in the fact that NATO’s missile shield could not protect Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Turkey from a missile attack coming from Iran by midcourse-interception systems based in Poland
  • The high price per SM-6 Dual missile – estimated at US$5 million per round

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Top U.S. general confirms ‘very concerning’ Chinese hypersonic weapons test

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. military officer, General Mark Milley, has provided the first official U.S. confirmation of a Chinese hypersonic weapons test that military experts say appears to show Beijing’s pursuit of an Earth-orbiting system designed to evade American missile defenses.

The Pentagon has been at pains to avoid direct confirmation of the Chinese test this summer, first reported by the Financial Times, even as President Joe Biden and other officials have expressed general concerns about Chinese hypersonic weapons development.

But Milley explicitly confirmed a test and said that it was “very close” to a Sputnik moment — referring Russia’s 1957 launch of the first man-made satellite, which put Moscow ahead in the Cold War-era space race.

“What we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system. And it is very concerning,” Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Bloomberg television, in an interview aired on Wednesday.

Nuclear arms experts say China’s weapons test appeared to be designed to evade U.S. defenses in two ways. First, hypersonics move at speeds of more than five times the speed of sound, or about 6,200 kph (3,853 mph), making them harder to detect and intercept.

Second, sources tell Reuters that the United States believes China’s test involved a weapon that first orbited the Earth. That’s something military experts say is a Cold War concept known as “fractional orbital bombardment.”

Last month, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall alluded to his concerns about such a system, telling reporters about a weapon that would go into an orbit and then descend on a target.

“If you use that kind of an approach, you don’t have to use a traditional ICBM trajectory — which is directly from the point of launch to the point of impact,” he said.

“It’s a way to avoid defenses and missile warning systems.”

Fractional Orbital Bombardment would also be a way for China to avoid U.S. missile defenses in Alaska, which are designed to combat a limited number of weapons from a country like North Korea.

Jeffrey Lewis at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies summed up fractional orbital bombardment this way: “The simplest way to think about China’s orbital bombardment system is to imagine a space shuttle, put a nuclear weapon into the cargo bay, and forget about the landing gear.”

Lewis said the difference is that the Chinese re-entry system is a glider.

China’s foreign ministry denied a weapons test. It said it had carried out a routine test in July, but added: “It was not a missile, it was a space vehicle.”

U.S. defenses are not capable of combating a large-scale attack from China or Russia, which could overwhelm the system. But the open U.S. pursuit of more and more advanced missile defenses has led Moscow and Beijing to examine ways to defeat them, experts say, including hypersonics and, apparently, fractional orbital bombardment.

The United States and Russia have both tested hypersonic weapons.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Alistair Bell)