DARPA unveils new project to defend against hypersonics

DARPA unveils new project to defend against hypersonics

Published
Artist's conception of the Glide Breaker, right, that would destroy hypersonic threats in the air (Illustration from DARPA)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — In the 60-year celebration of DARPA last week, the director of the military’s innovation wing made it clear the near- future goals were two-fold: artificial intelligence and hypersonics.

Thus, when the three-day DARPA event ended Friday, director Steven Walker announced the agency is adding up to $2 billion over the next five years into the quest to ensure U.S. superiority in artificial intelligence.

He did not forget about hypersonics.

Away from the main crowds, DARPA announced that it was progressing in its quest to develop ways to guard against hypersonic weapons, such as aircraft and missiles. The project, called Glide Breaker, is focused initially on combating the growing threat of Mach 5 missile attacks, DARPA officials said.

DARPA stands for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It is the Pentagon’s research and innovation wing.

Many independent analysts believe China is far ahead of the U.S. in hypersonics, with Russia also making significant progress. Earlier this month the head of the Missile Defense Agency. Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, said China had recently launched “several dozen successful hypersonic missile tests that Washington cannot ignore,” in remarks before the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.

In June, DARPA posted a Proposers Day notice on the new program, calling for ideas in July to develop a deterrence “to create large uncertainty for the adversary’s projected probability of mission success and effective raid.” DARPA said it was seeking to use “component technologies” to intercept and remove hypersonic weapons en route in the sky.

DARPA did not ask for any money for Glide Breaker specifically or for research and development of hypersonic defense systems in general in its 2019 budget request.

While Glide Breaker represents a project to defend against hypersonics. DARPA already has underway projects that would give the Pentagon pro-active systems.

They include the Falcon HTV-2 hypersonic vehicle; an Air Force-DARPA collaboration on rocket-propelled hypersonics called Tactical Boost Glide; a jet-propelled hypersonics; the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC); Operational Fires (OPFIRES), part of the Army’s new emphasis on long-range artillery and missiles; and the Advanced Full Range Engine (AFRE) for future hypersonic vehicles.

“We are setting a course for our future, our country’s future,” Walker said Friday in remarks to close the three-day event. “This community knows exactly where it needs to go and to accomplish next.”

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