The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has issued a broad agency announcement to define concepts for the Sea-Based Terminal Future Interceptor. The Interceptor would be used in future for sea-based terminal defenses against hypersonic glide vehicles and other hypersonic missile threats.
Hypersonic aircraft, missiles, rockets, and spacecraft can reach speeds through the atmosphere faster than Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound, or approximately 4,000 miles (~6400 km) per hour. Both China and Russia have claimed great advances in hypersonics and their stated intentions to field operational aircraft and weapons in the near future.
“Hypersonic weapons use advances in electronic capacity, sensor quality, and miniaturization to create a new threat,” says Trey Obering, Booz Allen executive vice president, and former head of the MDA. “They’re fast and maneuverable. That combination creates a threat that is imperative for the U.S. to address.”
There are two types of hypersonic weapons:
- Boost-Glide: which launch like a ballistic missile, but glide at hypersonic speeds and can retain maneuverability; and,
- Hypersonic cruise missile: which launch from an aircraft and use a scramjet engine which “turns on” at hypersonic speeds to power the weapon.
Interested parties are required to describe overall strategic concepts including: weapon systems, component maturity, missile defense integration approaches, estimated achievable performance, and technologies that require risk reduction.
They should also describe the interceptor concept design, including: counter-missile munitions hardware configuration, kinematic performance, rocket motor staging, inter-pulse delays, firing doctrine, fire-control methodology, guidance phases, homing sensor operation, and communications.
MDA expects to ultimately award several contracts that will be worth as much as $5 million each.