Hypersonic Missile News

Başlatan Alkyone, Kas 29, 2017, 07:07 ÖÖ

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China builds world's fastest wind tunnel to test weapons that could strike US within 14 minutes

China is building the world's fastest wind tunnel to simulate hypersonic flight at speeds of up to 12 kilometres per second.

A hypersonic vehicle flying at this speed from China could reach the west coast of the United States in less than 14 minutes.
Zhao Wei, a senior scientist working on the project, said researchers aimed to have the facility up and running by around 2020 to meet the pressing demand of China's hypersonic weapon development programme.
"It will boost the engineering application of hypersonic technology, mostly in military sectors, by duplicating the environment of extreme hypersonic flights, so problems can be discovered and solved on the ground," said Zhao, a deputy director of the State Key Laboratory of High Temperature Gas Dynamics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
The ground tests will significantly reduce the risk of failure when test flights of hypersonic aircraft start.
The world's most powerful wind tunnel at present is America's LENX-X facility in Buffalo, New York state, which operates at speeds of up to 10 kilometres per second - 30 times the speed of sound.

Hypersonic aircraft are defined as vehicles that travel at speeds of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, or above.
The US military tested HTV-2, a Mach 20 unmanned aircraft in 2011 but the hypersonic flight lasted only a few minutes before the vehicle crashed into the Pacific Ocean.
In March, China conducted seven successful test flights of its hypersonic glider WU-14, also known as the DF-ZF, at speeds of between Mach 5 and Mach 10.
Other countries including Russia, India and Australia have also tested some early prototypes of the aircraft, which could be used to deliver missiles including nuclear weapons.
"China and the US have started a hypersonic race," said Wu Dafang, professor at the school of aeronautic science and engineering at Beihang University in Beijing who received a national technology award for the invention of a new heat shield used on hypersonic vehicles in 2013.

Wu has worked on the development of hypersonic cruise missiles, a near space vehicle, high-speed drones and other possible weapons for the People's Liberation Army.
He said there were a number of hypersonic wind tunnels in mainland China which had helped ensure the high success rate of its hypersonic weapon tests.
The new wind tunnel will be "one of the most powerful and advanced ground test facilities for hypersonic vehicles in the world", said Wu, who was not involved in the project.
"This is definitely good news for us. I look forward to its completion," he added.
In the new tunnel there will be a test chamber with room for relatively large aircraft models with a wing span of almost three metres.

To generate an airflow at extremely high speeds, the researchers will detonate several tubes containing a mixture of oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen gases to create a series of explosions that can discharge one gigawatt of power within a split second, according to Zhao.
This is more than half of the total power generation capacity of the Daya Bay nuclear power plant in Guangdong.
The shock waves, channelled into the test chamber through a metallic tunnel, will envelope the prototype vehicle and increase the temperature over its body to 8,000 Kelvins, or 7,727 degrees Celsius, Zhao said.
That is nearly 50 per cent hotter than the surface of the Sun.
The hypersonic vehicle therefore must be covered by special materials with extremely efficient cooling systems inside the airframe to dissipate the heat, otherwise it could easily veer off the course or disintegrate during a long-distance flight.
The new tunnel would also be used to test the scramjet, a new type of jet engine designed specifically for hypersonic flights. Traditional jet engines are not capable of handling air flows at such speeds.

Zhao said the construction of the new facility would be led by the same team that built JF12, a hypervelocity denotation-driven shock tunnel in Beijing capable of duplicating flight conditions at speeds ranging from Mach 5 to Mach 9 at altitudes between 20 and 50 kilometres.
Jiang Zonglin, lead developer of the JF12, won the annual Ground Test Award issued by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics last year for advancing "state-of-the-art large-scale hypersonic test facilities".
Jiang's JF12 design "uses no moving parts and generates a longer test-duration and a higher energy flow than more traditionally designed tunnels", according to the American institute.

According to state media reports, the JF12 tunnel has been operating at full capacity with a new test every two days since its completion in 2012 as the pace of hypersonic weapon development increased significantly in recent years.
In an article published in the domestic journal National Science Review last month, Jiang said the impact of hypersonic flights on society could be "revolutionary".
"With practical hypersonic aeroplanes, a two-hour flight to anywhere in the world will be possible" while the cost of space travel could be cut by 99 per cent with reusable spacecraft technology, Jiang wrote.
"Hypersonic flight is, and in the foreseeable future will be, the driver of national security, and civilian transportation and space access," he added.
The escape velocity, or the minimum speed needed to leave the Earth, is 11 kilometres per second.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2120072/china-builds-worlds-fastest-wind-tunnel-test-weapons Mesajı Paylaş
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Introducing the DF-17: China's Newly Tested Ballistic Missile Armed With a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle

An image of a hypersonic glider-like object broadcast by Chinese state media in October 2017. No known images of the DF-17's hypersonic glide vehicle exist in the public domain.

China carried out the first flight-tests of a new kind of ballistic missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) in November, The Diplomat has learned.

According to a U.S. government source who described recent intelligence assessments on the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) on the condition of anonymity, China recently conducted two tests of a new missile known as the DF-17.

The first test took place on November 1 and the second test took place on November 15. The November 1 test was the first Chinese ballistic missile test to take place after the conclusion of the first plenum of the Communist Party of China's 19th Party Congress in October.

During the November 1 test flight, which took place from the Jiuquan Space Launcher Center in Inner Mongolia, the missile's payload flew to a range of approximately 1,400 kilometers with the HGV flying at a depressed altitude of around 60 kilometers following the completion of the DF-17's ballistic and reentry phases.

HGVs begin flight after separating from their ballistic missile boosters, which follow a standard ballistic trajectory to give the payload vehicle sufficient altitude.

Parts of the U.S. intelligence community assess that the DF-17 is a medium-range system, with a range capability between 1,800 and 2,500 kilometers. The missile is expected to be capable of delivering both nuclear and conventional payloads and may be capable of being configured to deliver a maneuverable reentry vehicle instead of an HGV.

Most of the missile's flight time during the November 1 flight test was powered by the HGV during the glide phase, the source said. The missile successfully made impact at a site in Xinjiang Province, outside Qiemo, "within meters" of the intended target, the source added. The duration of the HGV's flight was nearly 11 minutes during that test.

The HGV payload that China tested in November was specifically designed for the DF-17, the source told The Diplomat, while noting that parts of the U.S. intelligence community assess that the DF-17 is heavily based on the PLARF's DF-16B short-range ballistic missile, which is already deployed.

"The missile is explicitly designed for operational HGV implementation and not as a test bed," the source said, describing U.S. intelligence assessments of the DF-17. This was "the first HGV test in the world using a system intended to be fielded operationally," the source added.

The DF-17, per current U.S. intelligence assessments, is expected to reach initial operating capability around 2020.

"Although hypersonic glide vehicles and missiles flying non-ballistic trajectories were first proposed as far back as World War II, technological advances are only now making these systems practicable," Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, remarked in June, during a testimony before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.

Outside these missiles, China has conducted seven known tests of experimental hypersonic glide vehicles. These tests took place between 2014 and 2016.

Tests of the DF-17--the first missile designed for the operational deployment of an HGV with the PLARF--followed the first-ever appearance of a physical hypersonic glider test object in Chinese state media in October.

It's unclear if the object bears any relation to the tested DF-17, but the images released in October are thought to be the first of any glider-like object in Chinese state media.

In addition to China, the United States and Russia are also developing hypersonic glider technology, but neither country is known to have flight-tested a system in a configuration intended for operational deployment to date.

Hypersonic gliders, by virtue of their low-altitude flight, present challenges to existing radar sensor technology enabling missile defenses. By flying at a low altitude instead of reentering from a much higher apogee on a ballistic trajectory, adversary radars would detect HGVs with less time for an interception to take place before the payload can reach its target.

HGVs, however, are considerably slower in the final stages of their flight than most reentry vehicles on a ballistic trajectory. This may leave them vulnerable to interception by advanced terminal point defense systems.

In a report detailing new ballistic and cruise missile threats to the U.S. released this year, the U.S. National Air and Space Intelligence Center observed that "Hypersonic glide vehicles delivered by ballistic missile boosters are an emerging threat that will pose new challenges to missile defense systems."

https://thediplomat.com/2017/12/introducing-the-df-17-chinas-newly-tested-ballistic-missile-armed-with-a-hypersonic-glide-vehicle/ Mesajı Paylaş
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Russia Plans to Turn Its Navy into One Giant Hypersonic Missile

If everything goes according to plan, sometime in the mid-2020s the Russian Navy will adopt an anti-ship cruise missile called the Zircon. It's a highly maneuverable and hypersonic cruise missile -- meaning a weapon capable of traveling at speeds in excess of Mach 5 due to its advanced scramjet engine.

Scramjets kick in once the missile has already accelerated to high speeds with the use of a conventional solid-fuel engine. Once zooming through the air, the scramjet sucks in and compresses air already traveling at supersonic speeds to propel the vehicle further at velocities lesser engines can't handle.

Such missiles travel so fast, designing the vehicles and onboard guidance systems to withstand the heat and friction caused by meeting air resistance at Mach 5 and beyond is one of the biggest challenges in hypersonic development.

Provided Russia can figure out those engineering issues, and they are significant, then it will field one of the deadliest anti-ship missiles in the world. There have been several tests of the Zircon already beginning in April 2017 -- although a purported maximum speed of Mach 8 is likely exaggerated -- and Russia produces first-rate missiles on par with, and arguably better than, anyone else in the world.

No wonder the U.S. military is racing to develop new long-range anti-ship missiles and hypersonic weapons of its own.

The Zircon could pack a 650-pound warhead, and a small radar signature and extreme speed will make the Zircon difficult for air-defense sensors to detect and for shipborne anti-missile countermeasures to intercept. Russian press reports have a habit of sensationally promoting the Zircon as nigh-invulnerable, however, the combination of speed and maneuverability present a serious threat.

"These features enable such missiles to penetrate most missile defenses and to further compress the timelines for a response by a nation under attack," the California-based think tank RAND Corporation noted in a recent study.

There's another interesting fact about the Zircon that is equally important to the missile's raw capabilities -- the type of launcher.

Warships have limited space to fit the vertical-launch cells which fit hypersonic missiles and descend deep into the ship -- they generally must be designed from the beginning for the task. For this, the Russians are developing the Zircon to fit inside the 3S-14 VLS system which also launches the supersonic anti-ship Onyx cruise missile along with anti-ship and land-attack versions of the subsonic Kalibr.

The bad news for the U.S. Navy is that the Russian Navy sticks the 3S-14 VLS inside almost everything, from tiny corvettes to lumbering heavy cruisers.

"This means that most current Russian submarines, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and even corvettes will be capable of firing any of these three missiles," O.E. Watch, the monthly newsletter of the U.S. Army's Foreign Military Studies Office, noted in October 2017. "This practice is an example of Russia's current line of effort for modularity and interoperability."

"Undoubtedly, this shift is due to economic necessities that require a much smaller Navy than Soviet times when specialization was practical," the newsletter continued. "Russia has not only switched to multirole vessels to get the most out of every defense dollar, but has also enforced interoperability with certain Ground Forces and Aerospace Troops elements."

Thus, even if the Russian Navy is practically a coastal defense force at this point, it's one with impressive reach.

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/russia-plans-turn-its-navy-one-giant-hypersonic-missile-23835 Mesajı Paylaş
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Russia develops high-precision hypersonic weapons

Russia's leading missile manufacturer Tactical Missile Corporation (TMC) said Wednesday that it is developing new systems, including high-precision hypersonic weapons, in response to the challenges of modern warfare.

"Since the U.S. concept of a rapid global strike is based on the use of high-precision hypersonic weapons, we should focus in response on the development of both systems of defense against such weapons and of high-speed weapons with increased range and accuracy, also immune to electronic interference," TMC General Director Boris Obnosov said in an interview with Interfax news agency.

He recalled that the Russian government had chosen TMC as the leading developer of hypersonic weapons, and its enterprises in cooperation with various scientific organizations are exploring ballistics of future armaments, materials for their creation, engine specifics, guidance systems and other on-board systems.

Obnosov said he believes that those who first master these technologies will have serious advantages in many areas and not just in military ones. But for this, a technological breakthrough is needed, which the corporation expected to reach in the early 2020s.

Under the U.S. concept of Prompt Global Strike, hypersonic weapons should be developed to be able to deliver a prompt precision-guided conventional strike anywhere in the world.

Enterprises of the corporation are also working on high-precision missiles for Russia's fifth generation Su-57 aircraft and are about to start test-launches of those missiles, Obnosov said.

In addition, TMC is planning to complete tests of the newest torpedo for the Russian Navy by the end of the year, he said.

TMC, set up in 2002, consists of 18 leading Russian enterprises of the defense industry, producing missile systems and their components for the Army, Navy and the Aerospace Forces, as well as a range of non-military products.

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Chief Designer unveils details of Russian next-generation air-defence systems

"The S-500 missile system is classified as a fifth-generation system, and it will solve, among other things, anti-ballistic missile (ABM) targets", said Pavel Sozinov.

The S-500 (55R6M Triumfator-M) is the latest generation of Russian-made surface-to-air defence missile system, currently under development by the Russia's Almaz-Antey Air Defence Concern Joint Stock Company.

"We are striving to significantly exceed by many characteristics those achievements that are realized by Americans in the THAAD mobile anti-missile system," also noted Chief Designer.

Compared to the current S-400, the new system "will be completely different constructively and technically, it will have new radar station and computational tools, new anti-aircraft guided missiles," explained Sozinov.

"Another important point - and this is the world trend - the basic operating modes in the S-500 system will be automatic. That is, the intervention of the human operator in the course of combat operations is assumed, but the basic mode of all the C-500 facilities individually, and the system as a whole, is automatic, ", said Pavel Sozinov.

According to Russian sources, the S-500 is an advanced version of S-400 with dedicated components designed to intercept ballistic missiles at a height of up to 200 km.

Also, armyrecognition.com reported that the production of S-500 air defence weapons on automobile undercarriage has been launched at the machine-building enterprise in Nizhny Novgorod.

The S-500 is expected to have an extended range of up to 600 km (over 370 miles) and simultaneously engage up to 10 targets. The system will be capable of destroying hypersonic and ballistic targets. The S-500's interceptors will operate at an altitude higher than 185km.

The S-500 air-defence missile system will enter service with the Russian Aerospace Forces (VCSs) in 2019-2020 following the completion of testing.
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Russian Hypersonic ICBM Technology Detailed Article (available from translate)
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Russia launched serial production of Avangard hypersonic missile

Its hypersonic speed exceeds Mach over 20 times. The missile was previously known as item 4202. Experts believe Russian designers are a lot ahead of American counterparts who so far created only prototypes of the weapon, the Izvestia daily writes.

The president said the gliding warhead "deeply maneuvers laterally (for several thousand kilometers) and in altitude." It makes it invulnerable for air and missile defense. The new weapon is a fully-fledged hypersonic craft. "The use of new composite materials resolved the problem of a long guided flight of the gliding winged unit practically in plasma conditions. It approaches the target as a meteorite or a fireball. The surface temperature reaches 1600-2000 degrees Centigrade but the winged reentry vehicle is reliably controlled," Putin said.

Open sources said Avangard is to be mounted on prospective intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of traditional reentry vehicles. The unit is delivered to the necessary orbit by a pre-booster and begins to operate at an altitude of 100 km from the Earth. It glides to the target at a speed of 5-7 km/s. At the approach it can maneuver with the help of aerodynamic and gas fins.

The appearance of Avangard is still secret, but it is either a laconic wedged unit or a shuttle with small stabilizing wings installed in the head of the carrier. In size it is likely bigger than an ordinary reentry vehicle as item 4202 did not fit into a standard silo at the trials.

Russian media said silo-based UR-100NYTTKh missiles carry item 4202. It is a tested legendary liquid-fuel high-power rocket which is better fit for orbiting major payloads than solid-fuel Topol of Yars. The latest Sarmat RS-28 ICBM will become the carrier in future.

The optimal flight trajectory outside the dense layers of the atmosphere keeps maximum speed of the vehicle at target approach. Experts differ regarding Avangard warhead. It can be a small or medium nuclear charge and effective strike would be provided by high precision hit. However kinetic impact cannot be ruled out when the target is destroyed by the huge speed of the vehicle with a weight of nearly two tons.

The Soviet Union made the first attempt to create hypersonic reentry vehicles in mid-1980s. However the project failed for technical difficulties. In mid-1990s NPO Machinostroeniya resumed the project under the "item 4202" designation. Trials began in early 2000s and the first public appearance of the future Avangard took place in 2004.

At the time the Strategic Missile Forces held a large-scale exercise for the first time after the Soviet collapse. Chief-of-Staff Yuri Baluyevsky said it tested a unique spacecraft capable of flying at a hypersonic speed and maneuvering along the course and in altitude. It provides a possibility "to bypass missile defense," he said.

It is a long way from a prototype to serial production. Major import replacement program preceded item 4202 acceptance into service. It was necessary to replace Ukrainian-made system to control the flight, hypersonic maneuvering and aiming. On October 25, 2017 successful trials of fully Russian-made Avangard were held. The vehicle was launched from Dombarovsky area in Orenburg region and hit a target at Kura range in Kamchatka.

Expert Dmitry Kornev said Russian defense enterprises designed in the past years and launched serial production of truly unique weapons and Avangard is one of them. "The main advantage of the Russian hypersonic vehicle is that its high power allows complicated maneuvering. Thus, the vehicle escapes interceptor missiles and approaches the target from any direction and a broad range of altitudes," he said.

Russian engineers overtook the Americans and created a more advanced vehicle. "The Russian hypersonic flying craft has a clear advantage over American competitors designed by the Falcon project. Foreign media said so far the vehicles can develop hypersonic speed only in a straight flight," Kornev said.

The United States is developing hypersonic craft. The Falcon project and the concept of a rapid non-nuclear global strike produced two experimental craft. They differ in size and carriers. The first one is Hypersonic Test Vehicle. It has a smaller analogue - Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). However, the vehicles are being tested at present and their serial production is far away, the Izvestia writes.
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S-500's radar; Pantsir SM unveiled

The Yenisei phase-array radar being develop for the S-500 air defense missile system has been unveiled to the public for the first time.
The radar was shown by Rossiya-1 TV channel. Also shown in the footage is the upgraded Pantsir SM short to medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system. It is mounted on the new K-53958 8×8 chassis.

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Hypersonics in enemy hands are immeasurable threat to America

In the movie "The Graduate," the older and wiser Mr. McGuire puts his arm around young Ben Braddock's shoulders and offers one word of advice about the future: "Plastics." If the same scene took place today, he would solemnly intone: "Hypersonics. They're the future."

Or are they? Hypersonic weapons are an emerging threat, but what kind of threat remains unclear. In recent testimony to Congress, Stratcom commander Gen. John Hyten described a hypersonic weapon as "like a ballistic missile, but then it depresses the trajectory and then flies more like a cruise missile or an airplane. So it goes up into the low reaches of space, and then turns immediately back down and then levels out and flies at a very high level of speed."

The missiles can carry both nuclear and conventional payloads. Such weapons can have many uses, and lumping them all together under one catch-all phrase isn't very helpful in figuring out what kind of threat they pose to U.S. national security. They can be used for reconnaissance, for destroying a range of enemy assets far from home (and far from a battlefield), and they could even be used to deliver a nuclear sucker-punch.
This is why Russian President Vladimir Putin looked so pleased when he recently unveiled an amateurish video of a "nuclear cruise missile" (a weapon he probably doesn't have) -- because a fast, long-range, undetectable weapon could destroy an enemy capital or multiple enemy targets with literally no warning at all.

If the concern is that America's near-peers have developed a hypersonic capability to deliver nuclear weapons, then this isn't all that new of a problem. ICBMs and their sea-launched alternatives, SLBMs, already travel at hypersonic speeds. (A "hypersonic" vehicle would be tough to catch at Mach 5, but an ICBM warhead comes in at Mach 23.) In terms of the strategic balance of power, this doesn't mean very much: A nuclear bomb landing on a U.S. target is still a nuclear bomb landing on a U.S. target.

Missile-defense advocates could claim that these weapons take an existing problem that is already a major challenge -- that is, defending the United States against a strategic nuclear attack -- and make it practically an insoluble problem. This aspect of the hypersonic problem, however, is overblown.

Even during the Cold War, U.S. strategists worried about the vulnerability of coastal targets to submarine-launched missiles on a depressed trajectory. Washington, Honolulu, New York, Los Angeles or Seattle would have less than a few moments of warning, if any, before they were destroyed.

As a nuclear delivery system, hypersonic weapons would not change much in the strategic equation, especially among strategists (like me) who do not think national missile defenses will ever be capable of stopping any sizable attack against the United States. It is true that the United States has no ability to defend against hypersonic weapons. But, then, it has no ability to defeat any other kind of intercontinental missile attack, either.

In other uses, however, hypersonics could pose a qualitatively new threat to U.S. and allied security. Hypersonic reconnaissance vehicles could provide major advantages to the side that masters them and cause major headaches for the side that can't spot them or shoot them down. At the theater level, hypersonic weapons could mean qualitatively new complications in security planning.

National missile defenses might not be within reach, but theater-level defenses -- those that guard against launches from short-range or intermediate-range missiles -- have at least some chance of effectiveness. The creation of unstoppable and undetectable theater weapons that can evade both detection and countermeasures is a serious problem.

Again, however, there is an irony here that if these vehicles are armed with nuclear weapons, the deterrence calculus is actually somewhat less complicated. A nuclear attack is a nuclear attack. How the bomb gets to where it's going is less important than the decision to cross the line into nuclear use and, thus, risk escalation and global destruction.

If these hypersonic weapons, however, are armed with conventional munitions, things get very complicated indeed. The ability to destroy large military assets -- without detection and at high speed -- could induce immense confusion and critical lags in the ability to respond. These effects could be so destructive that they would mimic the effects of nuclear use, without the actual risk of employing nuclear weapons.

This is probably the chief reason Russia and China are so interested in hypersonic weapons. While they would do little to change the overall deterrent relationship between the United States and its nuclear-armed peers, they could provide an edge in a regional conflict in ways that previous U.S. strategists have never confronted.

What can the United States do? One important step, in addition to existing programs of testing, is to avoid any further conceptual confusion about "hypersonics." They are not a single class of system, and they are unlikely to change the balance of power or upset the existing strategic nuclear deterrent situation.

But they can, if unchecked, lead to operational and theater-level problems that could, in turn, open the door to conflicts that could progress to immeasurably dangerous consequences. The threat isn't here yet, but it's on the immediate horizon.

Tom Nichols is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and an adjunct professor at the Harvard Extension School. His latest book is "The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters."

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Russia Inducts its Own 'Carrier Killer' Missile, and It's More Dangerous than China's

China's DF-21D "carrier killer" ballistic missile grabbed headlines since entering service in 2010 for its ability to destroy large U.S. warships up to 1,450 kilometers from the country's coasts. The missile was key to altering the balance of power in the South and East China Seas in Beijing's favor and vastly expanding the country's maritime anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) zone in the face of a growing American naval presence. The United States Navy, by the admission of the U.S. Naval Institute, had no defense against such attacks, and the missile thus limits the United States' ability to respond to a potential crisis in the Taiwan Strait as it did in 1996. While the DF-21D is a unique and highly formidable weapons system, a new weapons system deployed from 2018 is likely to pose a far greater threat to U.S. warships in the Pacific -- the Russian military's new Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missile.

In this photo made from footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official website on March 11, 2018, a MiG-31 fighter jet of the Russian air force carrying the new Kinzhal hypersonic missile prepares to take off from an air base in southern Russia.

The Kinzhal (Dagger) was unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin personally in March 2018 as one of six new hypersonic weapons that would imminently enter service in the Russian armed forces. While other hypersonic platforms such as the the Sarmat and Avangard  ICBMS (intercontinental ballistic missiles) were designed solely to fulfill a strategic nuclear delivery role, what makes the Kinzhal stand out is its ability to be used as a tactical strike platform with a non-nuclear warhead -- meaning it has battlefield uses for precision strikes against military targets. Though the Kinzhal can deploy a nuclear warhead for a strategic strike role, what makes it truly invaluable is its ability to fulfill a tactical ship hunting role at extreme ranges -- arguably better than any other long range missile platform currently in service elsewhere.

The Kinzhal's warhead is estimated at between 500 and 700 kilograms, a formidable payload though still well below that of China's DF-21D. What sets the Kinzhal apart, however, and makes it a truly lethal ship hunter, is its combination of precision, range, and hypersonic speed of impact of over Mach 5. Even with no warhead, the kinetic energy of this impact alone is enough to disable if not completely destroy even the largest of warships. Some indication of its power can be gained by examining the Russian-Indian BrahMos anti-ship cruise missile, a platform restricted to speeds of Mach 2.8 and carrying a 250 kg warhead, which was developed to tear large warships ships in half with the sheer force of its high speed impact -- and despite lacking hypersonic speeds it was proven able to do so. From this it can be inferred that the Kinzhal, a longer ranged and much faster platform with approximately double the Brahmos' kinetic energy and more than double the payload, is highly likely to be able to destroy even the largest of enemy warships with a single strike -- and does so at distances of up to 2,000 km.
According to Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov, the military has already refurbished ten MiG-31 interceptors to deploy Kinzhal air-to-air missiles since March. The official stated regarding the weapon's capabilities: "This is a class of precision weapons which has a multifunctional warhead capable of striking at both stationary and moving targets…. (It) takes off into the air, accelerates to a certain speed at a high altitude, and then the missile begins its own autonomous movement." He emphasized the importance of a high speed of impact to the Kinzhal design, and further stated that the missile was designed to "maneuver during flight, and bypass dangerous zones containing anti aircraft or anti missile defense systems….It is this capability to maneuver in hypersonic flight in particular that makes it possible to ensure (the missile's) invulnerability and to guarantee target penetration."

A number of key figures in the United States military have noted following Russia's unveiling of its new hypersonic missiles that the United States currently has no capabilities with which to intercept attacks at such high speeds, with Strategic Command General John Hyten stating during a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee that U.S. air defense systems remain wholly incapable of stopping attacks by hypersonic platforms. Indeed, according to a number of reports by U.S. sources, some of the military's most advanced air defense platforms have recently struggled to intercept even basic attacks from subsonic missiles such as the Scud B, a primitive design which dates back over 50 years. This has serious implications not only for the U.S. mainland in the face of Russia's new ICBMs, but also for the U.S. Navy which could well see its destroyers and carriers sunk by the new Kinzhal strike platforms at extreme ranges in the event of conflict.

While Russia has little need for long-range anti-ship missiles on its western borders, where maritime distances are relatively confined, deployment of the Kinzhal to the country's Far East would have significant implications for the balance of power in the Pacific. With the MiG-31 interceptor retaining a combat radius of 1,500 km, the Russian Air Force would be able to target U.S. warships up to 3,500 km away from its coasts. Should combat aircraft deploy from near Vladivostok in Russia's Far East their strike range would cover the entire East China Sea and much of the South China Sea, as far as the Philippines and including the entire contested maritime region claimed by China and subject to U.S. freedom of navigation patrols. The implications are severe indeed, and could well seriously strengthen Moscow's position in the Pacific. Should Russia seek to deny the naval assets of United States and its allies access to the South and East China Seas, either to aid Beijing or for its own reasons, it would have a weapon at its disposal more capable of doing so than any currently in Chinese hands. Moscow could leverage this asset to gain considerable influence in the Pacific, which can more than compensate for the relative scarcity of its military assets in the region.

The Kinzhal may yet usurp the title of the Pacific's prime "carrier killer" and could well facilitate the longstanding Russian and Chinese goal of reducing the Western bloc's influence and military presence in the Pacific by leaving the U.S. surface fleet effectively defenseless -- undermining the unchallenged U.S. naval dominance which has been the bedrock of the regional order since 1945. Moscow is highly likely to leverage this formidable asset to its advantage in future.

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