Defending against invincible weapons

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - It's an acknowledged fact that the Chinese and Russians, two possible adversaries for the United States, are working on hypersonic weapons.  "I think for our nation and for the war fighter and for our customer, it's a very big deal," said Kenneth Todorov, The Vice President for Missile Defense Solutions  Business Unit at Northrop Grumman.

Obviously, the U.S. Military has been involved in conflicts around the world for the past several years. The attention to all that is part of the problem. "Our potential adversaries have spent the last couple of decades really refining the hypersonic technology into weaponry," said Todorov.

Now everyone should understand, today in the U.S. hypersonics might be the most important topic of all. Tests are happening and some of them have been very successful. Offensive capabilities for weapons traveling 5 times the speed of sound or faster is certainly a priority. But when Russia's President brags about invincible, hypersonic weapons, that calls for defensive capability. "We're really focused on addressing it, trying to find a solution on the defensive side," said Todorov.

America does have a growing missile defense capability with plenty of successful tests for multiple systems. The problem is our current systems count somewhat on a predictable trajectory for an incoming missile. Hypersonic weapons, on the other hand, wouldn't fly as high, but they would fly much faster. They would also be maneuverable, and because of the low altitude wouldn't be detected by ground based radar till they were close to their targets, and all that causes problems. "The first is you've got to be able to see it, and that has to start in space with a satellite constellation," said Kenneth Todorov.

At this point, that sort of sensor systems doesn't exist. The bottom line right now is that hypersonic weapons, and the defense against them leaves experts with more questions than answers. "But I'm hearkened and heartened by the great technology we have to apply to these problems, the great people we have working on those problems and the exquisite technology we have to solve these very difficult challenges," said Todorov.

Northrop Grumman is very aggressively working on hypersonics, and that includes work at the Huntsville facility.  Like many defense companies in the U.S., Northrop Grumman has actually worked on hypersonic weapons in the past, and that effort has accelerated.

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