WASHINGTON — The Pentagon studied the problem for years and concluded that sensors in space are the only solution to defend the United States from Russian and Chinese hypersonic weapons.
The Space Sensor Layer was one of the headlines from last week’s release of the 2019 Missile Defense Review, the first update to the nation’s missile defense posture in nine years.
“Look for rapid progress on that,” Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin told reporters.
The Pentagon views the Space Sensor Layer as a necessary military response to Russia’s and China’s looming deployment of hypersonic missiles. The existing U.S. missile shield was designed to counter North Korea’s and Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missiles. Hypersonic weapons that fly at several times the speed of sound are a different threat, as they maneuver in unpredictable trajectories and glide to their targets. Defense officials and analysts have argued that these advanced weapons could easily penetrate current U.S. defenses that rely on ground and sea-based sensors to track enemy missiles after they are launched.
“It’s not all about ICBMs,” Griffin said.
He explained the Space Sensor Layer will serve in a defensive role to detect and track incoming missiles, and also as ...