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What missile defense systems would be used against hypersonic glide vehicles and cruise missiles (like Avangard or Sky Star)? What challenges would nations face developing them?

  • $\begingroup$ I think you're pushing the limits of what's on topic here. This doesn't fit within the topics covered in the help center $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ The conventional approach is to simply nuke it. The issue here is not really about speed but its maneuveribiliry. Ballistic missiles have similar speeds but its feasible to intercept because the trajectory is predictable. When the target can dodge your interceptor vehicle its totally different game. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 4:57

1 Answer 1


From an aeronautical point of view, an interceptor normally must be faster than the target it is seeking to reach. Therefore, existing missile defense systems are ineffective against hypersonic aircraft, because the target is moving at least as fast as the would-be interceptor.

Of course, if the target moves in a unchanging straight line, then it is theoretically possible for the interceptor to reach it, so long as it is positioned in front of the target. For this exact reason, all hypersonic missiles are designed to make irregular movements in any situation where an interceptor may be present.

For straight line paths, there is a cone of viability where an interceptor needs to be in order to intercept the target. The slower the interceptor is, the smaller this cone becomes. In the current (2020) strategic situation, the cone of intercept for existing hypersonic weapons is so small that the probability of intercept is impractically small, even for high value targets. This is one reason why there is a great effort currently to develop laser-based defensive systems.

  • $\begingroup$ Patriot missiles have a stated range of 35km against ballistic missiles, which are hypersonic during reentry. The PAC-3 is capable of Mach 4+. The THAAD missile is capable of Mach 8+. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ @RalphJ Well, those are just maximum speeds during endgame, not cruising speeds. Furthermore, the fire control systems for those missiles assume the target is moving in a predictable trajectory, which is not true for a glide missile. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 8:21
  • $\begingroup$ @RalphJ Do you think THAAD or PAC-3 could take out a hypersonic glide body? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 12:25
  • $\begingroup$ Nike missiles on patrolling B36 (6) or B52 (4). Would save several seconds. The real question would be if it can be tracked before re-entry. It will be a meteor once it heats up. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 1:30

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