Posted 13 декабря 2021,, 10:54

Published 13 декабря 2021,, 10:54

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

Neither to Find nor to Intercept: The Pentagon Hastily Seeks an Antidote to Hypersonic Weapons

13 декабря 2021, 10:54
Russia's development of hypersonic weapons has prompted the United States to seek opportunities to counter the new threat. To this end, the US Missile Defense Agency signed a contract to create an operational target laboratory capable of simulating the flight of hypersonic missiles.

Alexander Sychev

The problems that have arisen in the field of security with the emergence of hypersonic weapons are associated with the inability to track hypersonic missiles in real time, which, moreover, perform maneuvers. Today, there are no effective detectors or interceptors.

The creation of a target laboratory with parameters close to hypersonic weapons should help Washington obtain data and, on their basis, create an "antidote" to the new weapon. "The company is committed to expanding the Department of Defense's existing experimental capabilities", - said Daniel Millman, CTO at Stratolaunch.

The contract signed with the agency gave the company hope for survival. After the death of Paul Allen, who passed away in 2018, Microsoft's co-founder and founder, Stratolaunch, the space launch services company that built the world's largest launch vehicle, Roc, has faced major challenges. Russia, which is actively working in the space launch market, Elon Musk and other private competitors turned out to be too serious opponents. The expected demand for the plane did not materialize, and the company was considering bankruptcy.

But soon Cerberus Capital Management bought Stratolaunch and started looking for a more promising and less competitive direction for the business. The boom in hypersonic weapons, raised by Russia, led the new owners to think about developing high-speed aircraft, which also made it possible to hope to attach to the Roc case and recoup the financial costs of its creation.

The signed contract does not say anything about whether Stratolaunch should create something completely new or bring existing developments to readiness. Most likely, according to the experts of The War Zone magazine, the second option is meant. In this case, we can talk about a test model of the Talon-A high-speed aircraft. Last September, the company announced the completion of the work. The first flight tests are scheduled for next year.

Talon-A is a reusable device that has a modular cargo compartment. It can be transformed depending on the purpose of the experiments being carried out. The company claims that this aircraft is capable of reaching speeds of about 6 times the speed of sound. The hull is approximately 8.5 meters long and has a wingspan of approximately 3.5 meters. After launching from the mother platform, the liquid propellant rocket engine will accelerate the vehicle to hypersonic speed. After completing the mission, Talon-A will land at the airfield. As a flying laboratory simulating the flight of the Russian Avangard or the Chinese DF-17, Talon-A is most likely considered.

Stratolaunch is also developing the larger Talon-Z aircraft and the Black Ice spacecraft to carry cargo and possibly passengers. But so far they exist only on drawing boards.

The Roc transport aircraft will go as a useful bonus to the Talon-A, although it cannot be ruled out that it may take an important place not only in research and experiments, but also become one of the carriers of the future American hypersonic weapons.

“Up to three Talon hypersonic vehicles can be launched simultaneously from the unique Roc aircraft. This makes it possible to speed up work on the creation of strike weapons, as well as tracking and interception systems, as well as to simultaneously work out several scenarios, including repelling a massive strike", - this giant machine is advertised on the company's website.

The War Zone magazine also admits a bright future for the aircraft: “Stratolaunch and the Roc aircraft have a new breath. They can fit into the testing and creation of not only new missile defense systems, but also the US hypersonic weapons themselves".

It seems that this time another American giant plane will not be just an episode in the "Guinness Book", like the largest flying boat Hughes H-4 Hercules, built by Hughes Aircraft in 1947. "Wooden goose", as this plywood creation of Howard Hughes was nicknamed, made only one flight and, unclaimed by anyone, stood in the hangar until the death of its creator in 1974.

The next giant of the American aircraft industry, Roc, has two 73-meter fuselages and 117-meter wings. He has already climbed into the sky twice, however, with a break of two years. The maximum take-off weight of the Roc is 590 tonnes, of which 230 tonnes of suspended payload. Six jet engines and avionics have been removed from passenger Boeing 747-400s in an effort to cut costs. Its chassis is assembled from 28 wheels - 14 on each body. And this colossus flies.