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Defense Technology Monitor - No. 9

Edited by Richard Harrison and Liam Bobyak
October 24, 2016

In the face of an ever more contentious dispute with Beijing over the Senkaku/Daioyu islands, Japan has announced that it intends to develop and deploy a new long range land-sea anti-ship missile in order to deter encroachment on the contested islands by Chinese ships. The news comes on the heels of Japan's recent deployment of radar designed to track Chinese vessels in the area. The new missiles will have a range of 190 miles and will use solid fuel, which will allow them to be deployed rapidly and remain in storage for extended periods of time. (
Popular Mechanics, August 14, 2016)

Russia and China continue to make strides in the development of hypersonic missiles - weapons against which current U.S. defenses offer no protection. As it stands now, America's deployed systems (including the Aegis, THAAD, Ground Based Midcourse Defense system and the Patriot PAC-3) do not have the capability to counter the unique threat posed by hypersonic missiles, requiring that a new generation of missile interceptors be developed. The capability gap, however, is widening as Russia adds a layer of maneuverability to its hypersonic missiles, currently in development.

In the short term, a promising solution for the United States can be found in an upgraded version of the THAAD, called the THAAD-ER. This, however, represents only a stop-gap measure, because the THAAD-ER is capable of protection only against rudimentary hypersonic missiles. A more effective option, but one still off in the future, are high energy laser weapons capable of targeting missiles during their boost phase, before they can either reach high speeds or be able to maneuver. Neither option, however, is around the corner; development of both the THAAD-ER system and high-energy lasers will take at least 5 and 10 years, experts predict. (
Washington Free Beacon, August 16, 2016)

In light of the increasingly ubiquitous role played by drones on the battlefield, the U.S. government is now looking for ways to be able to counter unmanned aerial systems of various sizes and capabilities. In particular, the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is concerned about scenarios in which swarms of drones overwhelm defenses, and is working toward the development of a scalable and upgradable solution by 2020. Among the solutions being explored by DARPA are hacking techniques, lasers and other technological means designed to defeat swarms. Laser weapons concepts in particular hold out considerable promise in addressing aerial swarms, because of their adaptability for use against more traditional threats such as artillery and mortar shells. (
Popular Science, August 18, 2016)

As part of China's extensive military modernization - a multi-year effort that includes plans to build both stealth fighters and aircraft carriers - the PRC appears to be increasingly eyeing the development of artificial intelligent (AI) systems to control cruise missiles. According to Wang Changqing of the China Aerospace and Industry Corp, "They [AI driven cruise missiles] will allow commanders to control them in real time manner, or to use a fire-and-forget mode, or even to add more tasks to in-flight missiles." (
Reuters, August 19, 2016)

While it’s clear that future battlefields will increasingly be shaped by the introduction of autonomous systems, it’s not at all certain that the U.S. is adequately prepared to face this reality. A new study by the Pentagon's Defense Science Board (DSB) points out that the U.S. military is increasingly struggling to keep pace with the rapid development of commercially available AI. Given the emphasis now being placed on autonomous lethal weapons systems by adversaries such as Russia and China, the DSB notes, the U.S. must take "immediate action" to gain a better awareness of "foreign autonomous systems" and develop appropriate countermeasures. (
Defense One, August 25, 2016)

Related Categories: Russia; Missile Defense; China; Information and Cyberwarfare; Defense Technology Program

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