Addressing Shortfalls Of Defensive Hypersonic Weapons
Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck (left), commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, discussed hypersonic weapons from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, speaking remotely to the Hypersonics Weapons Summit in Washington on October 29, 2020.
Russia and China continue to pursue hypersonic technology with national investments, holding the homeland at risk, he said.
For instance, the Russian Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which can carry a nuclear or conventional payload, is now operational.
Defenses against hypersonic weapons have not kept pace with offensive capability advancements, he said. Adversaries' hypersonic weapons with independent maneuvering capability challenge the Defense Department's legacy early warning systems.
The nuclear triad remains the bedrock of the nation's defense, VanHerck said. "However, we have to move beyond thinking about deterrence by punishment for homeland defense and start thinking about deterrence by denial," he said.
An attack on the homeland below the nuclear threshold limits U.S. options. That's why conventional deterrence is also vitally important, he said.
Defense from hypersonics doesn't require new technology, he said. It can be done with the technology at hand.
However, "the closer we let the adversary get to launch, the smaller our decision space gets, and our options to respond diminish. Defeat mechanisms should be our last resort. If we have to deploy them, then we're already in a jam," he said.
These efforts must not only continue, but they must accelerate, he emphasized.