The reason why it’s challenging to intercept Russian hypersonic warheads

Russia’s Avangard hypersonic warhead has an excessively high manoeuvrability and speed, leaving other countries without any practical defences.

The Yasnensky unit in the Orenburg region, which is now the second Russian unit to use the kind of missile, was formed with the aid of a regiment outfitted with an Avangard hypersonic weapon, according to a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense on December 17.

Given that their shield system cannot yet intercept Avangard missiles, this information is considered concerning for the US and its allies. In an article published earlier this month, the Nikkei newspaper in Japan said that Japan and the US should collaborate to develop technology that would allow missile shields to shoot down hypersonic warheads first when they approach an area where present air defence systems are insufficient.

Beginning in 2023, the Japanese Ministry of Defense will develop massive rocket engines and other parts for interceptor rounds. This type of missile must have a long range, a high speed, and the capacity to move in response to changes in the hypersonic glide vehicle’s flight path (HGV). Avangard’s warhead cannot be intercepted by the US or Japan since neither nation has the technology to forecast its flight path, and none has anti-aircraft missiles, according to Russian military analyst Alexey Leonkov.

“It is difficult for the opponent to predict from which direction Avangard will enter the airspace since, after disengaging from the rocket, it continues to navigate. The intercept mission is hopeless “he stated.

The “fire and chase” approach, in which the missile is launched to track the HGV’s flight path rather than attempting to shoot first, is, in Leonkov’s opinion, the more straightforward answer. “The anti-aircraft missile needs to accelerate to 1.5 times the target speed in order to do that. The anti-aircraft missile needs to travel at a speed of about 50,000 km/h in order to outrun the Avangard warhead, which has a speed of more than 33,000 km/h. This is impossible, “he stated.

The US and Japan must also create a target with similar technical properties to Avangard, according to the Russian expert, but at this time, neither nation is able to do so.

For many years, the US has been researching hypersonic weapons, but the project has now stagnated. The US hurried to conduct research after Russia and China placed orders for hypersonic weapons, and it frequently acknowledged that it lagged behind its rivals in this area.

A number of tests have recently failed, and the US has not finished any hypersonic weapon projects. Only one test has lately been completed successfully.

Since 2019, Russia has activated the first missile regiment with an Avangard system. Additionally, China has begun using its DF-17 ballistic missile, which can transport heavy goods vehicles.

With a top speed of almost 6,000 km/h, hypersonic weapons work on the theory of exchanging the warhead’s incredibly fast rotation for increased range and the capacity to get past the enemy’s missile defence. They are frequently launched by intercontinental ballistic missiles because of their high speed and extensive range.

The HGV warhead exits the missile after accelerating and begins the glide phase. As opposed to conventional ballistic missiles, which follow a fixed parabolic trajectory, this missile may continuously change its height and course, making it more difficult for the opponent to intercept. The warhead will drop to the target quickly and with a steep angle in the last phase, rendering the anti-aircraft net useless.

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