12 décembre 2019 | International, Aérospatial

RFP Reveals Main Thrust Of U.S. Counter-Hypersonic Plan

Steve Trimble

The main thrust of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's counter-hypersonic strategy has just been revealed.

The Regional Glide Phase Weapon System (RGPWS) prototype project demonstrates an interception capability against a medium- or intermediate-range threat.

The MDA revealed the existence of the program in a request for prototype proposals released to industry on Dec. 5. An industry day for the RGPWS prototype project is scheduled on Dec. 18 at an MDA facility on Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

The RGPWS shows the MDA is moving faster to field at least a prototype counter-hypersonic capability than previous efforts suggested.

The MDA had previously defined a concept for a Hypersonic Defense Weapon System (HDWS). The agency selected 21 proposals from industry in September 2018 for concept definition studies. MDA then down selected to five concepts in late August and early September 2019 for a nine-month-long concept refinement phase. The selected proposals included four kinetic concepts based on existing boosters and one Raytheon-directed energy system.

The RGPWS is a parallel effort by MDA to the HDWS. The companies selected for the HDWS concept refinement phase could submit separate proposals for RGPWS. But other companies that were rejected after the concept definition phase or did not participate in HDWS can participate in the RGPWS, says Tom Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), who was briefed on the program on Dec. 9.

For example, Northrop Grumman's proposal was not down selected for the HDWS concept refinement phase, but it intends to compete for the RGPWS prototype project.

“Northrop Grumman is engaged with MDA on Hypersonic Defense Regional Glide Phase Weapon System and will attend the upcoming industry day,” a spokesman says.

Northrop has been developing kinetic and non-kinetic options for missile defense, including one concept in the latter category called the Terminal and Regional Electronic Attack Defense System.

The acknowledgment of the RGPWS offers a limited glimpse into MDA's development strategy for the burgeoning counter-hypersonic capability. In July 2017, the agency first disclosed plans for funding a hypersonic defense demonstration. An item in the Selected Acquisition Reports for the Ballistic Missile Defense System added $508 million to the program's overall budget to pay for such a demonstration. In March 2019, the agency disclosed it would spend more than $600 million on hypersonic defense capabilities by the end of fiscal 2024.

By emphasizing a “glide phase” weapon with a “regional” targeting area, the MDA also provided clues about the intent of the demonstration. It does not appear to be targeting an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear hypersonic glide vehicle as the warhead, such as Russia's Avangard. It is more likely designed to target a hypersonic glide vehicle with regional range, Karako says. Options may include hypersonic glide vehicles on China's DF-17 and DF-21 missiles.

“That's a good thing,” Karako says. “It's a smart move for MDA to start there.”

Separately, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency continues to pursue the Glide Breaker program. It was revealed in July 2018 as a program with a particular interest in “component technologies that radically reduce risk for development and integration of an operational hard-kill system,” according to a DARPA solicitation document. But no further details about Glide Breaker have been released.


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    Mark Pomerleau The Air Force is realigning the cyber mission force teams it provides to U.S. Cyber Command as a way to have intelligence personnel work more closely with cyber operators. In the past, Air Forces Cyber was made up of cyber and intelligence personnel from 24th Air Force and 25th Air Force, respectively. However, the arrangement created difficulties with command relationships and oversight of teams since the intelligence operators served beneath a separate Air Force command with a separate commander. But in October, the Air Force decided to merge 24th and 25th Air Force into 16th Air Force/Air Forces Cyber, placing cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare and weather capabilities under one commander, and creating the Air Force's first information warfare entity. The new organization also serves as the Air Force's component to Cyber Command. 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Officials at the creation of 16th Air Force said the integration would allow the service to provide more robust teams to Cyber Command. This new structure - with cyber operators, developers and intelligence forces in the same room and read in on the same missions - provides a tighter mission thread, Courchaine said. In the past, she said, when cyber operators needed intelligence support, they'd have to ask their intelligence teammates who weren't always privy to the mission or technical context, which created gaps. “Now when you have those conversations with intelligence airmen, operators and developers all in the same forum, sometimes in the same room with the same whiteboard, you come to integrated solutions up front in early vice having to work through a process where that one piece of information, potentially out of context, is levied on the intelligence requirement to somebody that you don't know in another place ... to try to understand truly what the intelligence piece that you're looking for,” Courchaine, said. “When you fuse all of them together, I think the output is significantly better and drives that operationally speed, the agility and flexibility that [16th Air Force commander] Gen. [Timothy] Haugh is looking after.” The final realignment package is still at the Air Staff awaiting final approval with details regarding new units still to be determined, to include a new group activated under the 67th Cyberspace Wing and three new squadrons. Gaining insights from joint operations The team realignment also extends to Air Force cyber teams that serve under commanders of other services under different Joint Force Headquarters-Cybers. The way cyber operations are structured within DoD is individual services do not have their own offensive teams. Instead, these teams work through several organizations, each formally known as Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber that exist beneath Cyber Command, which in turn provide planning, targeting, intelligence and cyber capabilities to the combatant commands to which they're assigned. The heads of the four service cyber components also lead their respective JFHQ-C. 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Haugh from a 16th Air Force perspective to not just be successful in aligning the forces appropriately but driving that return on investment where we're able to converge target sets globally ... to drive operations so that we can influence our adversaries in support of national security objectives,” she said. https://www.c4isrnet.com/cyber/2020/07/19/with-a-new-setup-the-air-force-hopes-to-improve-information-warfare-operations/

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