Hypersonic Developments

Boagrius

Active Member
Yes it seems like this area is really starting to take shape.

Question to those in the know - how feasible would a hypersonic medium range AAM be? Occurs to me that an AMRAAM-esque missile that can cut down a ~10-25nm distance in the blink of an eye (so to speak) could be extremely potent when paired with VLO assets like F22 or F35. Much has been made of Mach 4+ ramjet/VFDR missiles like Meteor and their enhanced NEZ but I would have thought a hypersonic BVR AAM may potentially leapfrog them capability wise. Could render a lot of "red team" effort into EW/EA (softkill) countermeasures rather impotent due to the drastic response time reduction.

Just musings on my part of course - I imagine there would be significant challenges associated with hitting a fast moving, potentially maneuvering target with a missile like this. Add to that size constraints imposed by the imperative of internal carriage on VLO jets and I am under no illusions as to how challenging it would be. More wondering if it is something we are ever likely to see or whether there is other technology in the pipeline that is more likely to occupy the "post-AMRAAM" space.
 

Todjaeger

Potstirrer
Yes it seems like this area is really starting to take shape.

Question to those in the know - how feasible would a hypersonic medium range AAM be? Occurs to me that an AMRAAM-esque missile that can cut down a ~10-25nm distance in the blink of an eye (so to speak) could be extremely potent when paired with VLO assets like F22 or F35. Much has been made of Mach 4+ ramjet/VFDR missiles like Meteor and their enhanced NEZ but I would have thought a hypersonic BVR AAM may potentially leapfrog them capability wise. Could render a lot of "red team" effort into EW/EA (softkill) countermeasures rather impotent due to the drastic response time reduction.

Just musings on my part of course - I imagine there would be significant challenges associated with hitting a fast moving, potentially maneuvering target with a missile like this. Add to that size constraints imposed by the imperative of internal carriage on VLO jets and I am under no illusions as to how challenging it would be. More wondering if it is something we are ever likely to see or whether there is other technology in the pipeline that is more likely to occupy the "post-AMRAAM" space.
At this point I would say a hypersonic AAM is not viable. As I understand it, one of the engineering problems that hypersonics have encountered is that at certain point in the hypersonic regimen the air flowing around the hypersonic object becomes superheated and ionized, which in turn causes problems for missile guidance and telemetry. INS guidance might be able to target a stationary ground target so that hypersonic strikes against fixed targets of strategic value (buildings, fixed radar arrays, bridges, dams, power stations, transmission lines, transformer/relay stations, etc.) could be carried out. However, to target mobile targets either the hypersonic needs to have onboard sensors to provide guidance, or a datalink so that an offboard platform can provide the targeting and guidance information.

All that is needed even before any engineering difficulties relating to aerodynamics might be encountered, to permit a Mach 6+ missile the ability to maneuver sufficiently to strike a moving aircraft.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #23
Agree, lots of technical issues, which is why if you want "fast", lasers are probably better. They need some work though.
 

Boagrius

Active Member
That makes perfect sense - thanks for the responses. I also note that the extant hypersonics I am aware of seem to achieve their highest speeds at very high altitudes and after a decent period of acceleration. This compared to the denser, draggier air (lower altitude) and shorter engagement ranges a typical AAM would have to contend with...
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #26
This article accesses the Hypersonics arms race. Of particular note, the table showing China's growing output of scientific research papers compared to all others in the field. As this is a US publication, I guess mentioning the UK based Reaction Engines work on hyersonics wasn't on.

Hypersonic weapons race | Aerospace America
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #33
I posted another article on Reaction Engine's precooler in the general aviation thread. Probably should have posted here or in military aviation. In any event, this company is one to watch and has attracted investment from both Boeing and RR.
 

Millennium7

Member
At this point I would say a hypersonic AAM is not viable. As I understand it, one of the engineering problems that hypersonics have encountered is that at certain point in the hypersonic regimen the air flowing around the hypersonic object becomes superheated and ionized, which in turn causes problems for missile guidance and telemetry. INS guidance might be able to target a stationary ground target so that hypersonic strikes against fixed targets of strategic value (buildings, fixed radar arrays, bridges, dams, power stations, transmission lines, transformer/relay stations, etc.) could be carried out. However, to target mobile targets either the hypersonic needs to have onboard sensors to provide guidance, or a datalink so that an offboard platform can provide the targeting and guidance information.

All that is needed even before any engineering difficulties relating to aerodynamics might be encountered, to permit a Mach 6+ missile the ability to maneuver sufficiently to strike a moving aircraft.
Even more important than the datalink or the sensors, it is the kinematic of the weapon. At hypersonic speed you can't turn very tight. Against a slow moving target like a ship, whatever maneuver it can do, it is basically static if compared with the weapon so just small adjustments are needed. A plane may easily travel at 20 % of the speed of the missile, so it could potentially outmaneuver it. The Meteor is not hypersonic but it is very fast and to overcome the problem, the engine is throttable. The weapon can slow down if necessary.

Mod Edit: Embedded link promoting a YouTube channel deleted.
-Preceptor
 
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Todjaeger

Potstirrer
Even more important than the datalink or the sensors, it is the kinematic of the weapon. At hypersonic speed you can't turn very tight. Against a slow moving target like a ship, whatever maneuver it can do, it is basically static if compared with the weapon so just small adjustments are needed. A plane may easily travel at 20 % of the speed of the missile, so it could potentially outmaneuver it. The Meteor is not hypersonic but it is very fast and to overcome the problem, the engine is throttable. The weapon can slow down if necessary.
I think you managed to completely miss the point of my post. The kinematics of a missile are worth SFA if the missile cannot be guided (by either on or off board sensors), at that point one would be left with a hypersonic dumb rocket. The Meteor AAM as well as the AIM-54 Phoenix which IIRC could go up to Mach 5 could both be guided because they moved at supersonic but not hypersonic speeds, where the atmospheric friction causes heating and ionization of air molecules which in turn cause the problems with transmission and reception of signals to and from the hypersonic vehicle.
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
Basically hypersonics are difficult to defend against using current weapons systems, because the response time is so limited. Eventually an effective defence will be fielded against them. It's the age old story of defence vs offence.
 

Rich

Member
Hypersonics push so much air they must have truly huge IR and electromagnetic signatures for detection. Can someone comment on that please?

Most of all in the conventional role. Plus the Russian and Chi-com ones are big.
 

buffy9

Member
Hypersonics push so much air they must have truly huge IR and electromagnetic signatures for detection. Can someone comment on that please?

Most of all in the conventional role. Plus the Russian and Chi-com ones are big.
I'm not sure about EMS signature, but it would certainly have a great deal of IR. Minus the propulsion, an object going at mach 5 in the atmosphere is certain to generate a significant amount of heat. The problem with IR sensors is that they are typically not that long-ranged and while modern versions may be a lot more advanced, I'm skeptical of their use against hypersonics in anything that isn't satellite based. However this isn't to say a solution may not lie in the technology. I will say there has been a historic lack of advancement in IRST technology.


Powerful radar is likely the best course of action for detection and tracking. The problem is powerful radar is expensive and with current budget issues in the US (alongside the impending COVID economic hit), the means to field networks of these radars may not be feasible. Strategically the US mainland is perhaps safer than forward positioned forces in Europe and Asia, whereby intermediate ranged missiles could deal substantial damage with little or even no time to react. The DF-17 is a good example.

In terms of actual defence, it's hard to say. Lasers aren't likely to be as effective as a more kinetic interceptor, mostly as hypersonics are already designed to withstand extreme heat. Utilizing non-kinetic systems against such a fast moving and potentially distant target may also not be effective, likely avoiding assets which could actually generate an effect. A hard kill interceptor may be preferred, but history shows that hitting fast moving and distant targets is not a simple or assured matter. Contemporary interceptors (including the SM-6 and PAC-3) for ballistic missiles, could feasibly be modified to engage hypersonics - although it would be an expensive matter.


There are certainly developments occurring, albeit anything substantial would certainly be classified as to ensure counters could not be developed.


At the moment, deterring an attack seems to be the best option without the ability to correctly defend against said attack. We hardly had any defences during the Cold War after all, only reaction time to send another continent ending wave. The real problem with hypersonics is, will there be that response time. Hyperwar on an operational and/or strategic scale.


 
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