US Demonstrates Capability To Shoot-Down Cruise Missile With A ‘Hypersonic Bullet’

The U.S. military has reportedly tested a howitzer round to shoot down a missile with a hypersonic shell that can reach speeds of Mach 5. This was a major step towards knocking incoming cruise missiles out of the sky, Task & Purpose reported, citing a Breaking Defense report.

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According to the reports, the test took place at the white sands missile range in New Mexico, on Wednesday, when an M-109A6 tracked howitzer fired a 155mm hypervelocity shell at an incoming BQM-167 target drone, shooting it down.

The target drone was mimicking a Russian subsonic cruise missile during a demonstration of the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System that’s designed to enable the rapid detection and destruction of incoming missiles.

The projectile has been developed jointly by the Army and Navy and along with the howitzer, it was also fired from a naval deck gun. The idea of a smaller hypervelocity shell to shoot down incoming missiles is revolutionary. However, if the system is able to shoot down supersonic or hypersonic missiles is unclear, at least as of now.

Slide 5 from Navy briefing entitled “Electromagnetic Railgun” presented at the NDIA Joint Armaments Forum, Exhibition & Technology Demonstration, May 14, 2014.
Slide 5 from Navy briefing entitled “Electromagnetic Railgun” presented at the NDIA Joint Armaments Forum, Exhibition & Technology Demonstration, May 14, 2014.

The Air Force’s top scientist Will Roper, while addressing the reporters, remarked “Tanks shooting down cruise missiles is awesome — video game, sci-fi awesome,” and that the hypervelocity weapon for missile defense was “near and dear to my heart,” because the development effort actually started under DoD’s Strategic Capabilities Office in 2013 when he was leading it.

The shooting of the HVP (hypervelocity projectile) was part of the two-day trials for a command system Air Force is developing, by the name of Advanced Battle Management System, which combines data from multiple sources like satellites, sensors, radars, etc. in a simplified feed to enable a kill chain that initiated action within seconds- using AI.

The Northern Command chief, Gen. Glen Vanherk told the importance of the system while remarking that he was not “skeptical anymore”.

“From my perspective, this is all about domain awareness,” he said. He said he was most impressed by the ability to share domain awareness data from all domains among Combatant Commanders “in a common place where that information can then be utilized by decision-makers from a strategic level all the way to the tactical level.”

Experts suggest that such a system could save taxpayers’ money as these can be deployed for medium-range anti-air defense systems to secure strategic locations and provide a cheaper option than the missile systems- and also with a lot of ease in logistics