The Politico edition learned about the US plans to create a system to protect against hypersonic missiles based on balloons. In 2023, Washington plans to spend seven times more on it than in the last two years
The Pentagon is developing an addition to the missile defense system based on aircraft in the form of balloons to protect the United States from hypersonic weapons, According to Politico, citing documents from the US Defense Department. Aerostats— vehicles that use encapsulated gas to take off, such as hot air balloons, airships, meteorological probes.
“The new plan should allow [the US] to outperform the competition: Russia and China. High-altitude inflatable aircraft capable of moving at an altitude of 18 to 27 km can become an integral part of a wide surveillance network and, in the future, can be used to track hypersonic weapons,— writes the newspaper.
In confirmation of the reality of such plans, which, according to Politico, may look like science fiction, the publication cites data from Pentagon documents, according to which $ 27.1 million will be allocated for development under this program in 2023, while over the past two $ 3.8 million was allocated for these purposes.
“High-altitude or ultra-high-altitude systems have many advantages due to stability, maneuverability and the ability to carry several types of payload at once,” & mdash; The newspaper quotes Tom Karako, head of missile defense programs at the International Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The Pentagon is interested in balloons because they can be used for different purposes: in particular, they can “track and deter hypersonic weapons being developed by Russia and China,” according to Politico. “One of the ways to use balloons” in addition to expensive satellites when tracking missiles. Made in the form of a drop, the devices collect complex data and navigate in space with the help of artificial intelligence, — writes the publication.
The newspaper recalls that the Pentagon has been testing high-altitude inflatable aircraft and drones powered by solar energy for several years in the field of data collection, providing ground forces with communications and communications, as well as for “safety net” satellites in case of problems. Politico also reports, citing Defense Department budget documents, that the Pentagon has already begun secretly transferring such technology to the military to power the Air Force.
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In 2019, the United States reported on the existence of a program called “Hidden long-term stratospheric architecture”; (Covert Long-Dwell Stratospheric Architecture, COLD STAR), which was originally created to trace drug supply chains. At the same time, the Pentagon Politico confirmed that this program was transferred to the military, but refused to provide any details about its development for reasons of secrecy. It is only known that the US Department of Defense has since made 25 test launches of special balloons from sites in the state of South Dakota.
“They [aerostats] can be used for any number of systems, whether they be communication and data transmission nodes, intelligence, surveillance and target acquisition (ISR) systems, air and missile threat tracking networks, and even various types of weapons. And all this without the use of satellites that move in predictable orbits, — notes Karako.
Politico quotes the words of Russell van der Werff, director of development at the company— manufacturer of such aircraft Raven Aerostar, which is a division of Raven Industries. According to him, the devices are equipped with a flight control unit, which is powered by solar panels, as well as a module responsible for flight safety, navigation and communications. Raven Aerostar also said that the modules of the devices use a patented machine learning algorithm that predicts the direction of the wind and combines sensor data in real time.
Tests of hypersonic weapons have been reported in both Russia and the United States. The last major Russian test was the May 28 launch of the Zirkon hypersonic missile. from the frigate “Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov” in the Barents Sea. The Ministry of Defense reported that the missile successfully hit a sea target located at a distance of about 1 thousand km in the White Sea.
«Zirkon»— Russian-made anti-ship hypersonic missile. It is being developed in the NPO of Mechanical Engineering near Moscow. The rocket can reach speeds of more than 9.5 thousand km/h. Last November, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the missiles would enter service in 2022.
The first salvo launch of “Zircon” took place on December 24, 2021. At the end of the month, the Northern Fleet reported on 12 successful launches of the Zirkon rocket. About ten launches were carried out by the crew of the frigate “Admiral Gorshkov”, two more — the crew of the nuclear submarine “Severodvinsk” (project «Ash»). The Kremlin noted that the successful tests of “Zircon” will be a convincing note for the West.
President Vladimir Putin said in June 2020 that Russia would be ready for the emergence of hypersonic weapons in other countries. According to him, by this time she “with a high degree of probability will have a means of combating these weapons.”
The latest tests in the United States, which took place on June 30 in Hawaii, on the contrary, ended in failure. When turning on the engine on the prototype rocket, a failure occurred, Bloomberg reported, citing US Navy spokesman Tim Gorman. No other details were given.
In April, a source told CNN that the United States had successfully tested a hypersonic missile in mid-March. However, they decided to keep them secret due to unwillingness to allow tensions in relations with Russia to grow, the source said.
The tests in China of a hypersonic missile capable of carrying nuclear weapons became known in October 2021. According to the Financial Times, citing sources, during the tests, the device flew through low-orbit space, but could not reach the target, passing several tens of kilometers away.
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