LIHU’E — The Pacific Missle Range Facility on Kaua‘i has become a top testing facility for hypersonic and laser weapons for the United States Army and its joint partners.
Hypersonic weapons are a significant proponent of new-aged warfare.
The Robust defense against adversary hypersonic systems requires a persistent and omnipresent space-based sensor architecture to ensure timely, accurate indications and warnings, and fire control quality tracking for potential intercept.
Congress mandated the Army deploy a persistent, timely global space sensor layer that is disaggregated and less concentrated to be more sustainable, according to Navy CDR Josh Frey, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense.
One component that will change the dynamics of warfare with hypersonic weapons is they will provide warfighters the ability to strike specific targets from hundreds and even thousands of miles away in a matter of minutes.
The essential attributes of hypersonics are very fast, very high-altitude flights over very long distances, along with maneuverability.
The flexibility of the weapons gives any country in possession of these a tactical advantage over their opponent.
“Defending against these systems is very difficult,” Frey said. “The very high speed brings a tremendous amount of kinetic energy to the point of impact, which increases its lethality. The high amount of kinetic energy also aids greatly in hypersonic weapons about to penetrate hardened targets.”
The Army views hypersonic weapons as providing a very survivable but very lethal, very long-range strike capability to go after the high-end capabilities of a potential adversary.
A perfect location
The island of Kaua‘i’s tropical climate is just one reason for the Army and Navy to choose this specific location to conduct military experiments.
A deep, inland strike against targets of strategic importance, a coastal strike against high-end systems designed to defeat the Army’s capabilities, and then maritime strikes against naval assets are challenging our dominance in the sea domain.
PMRF’s collection capabilities include passive sonar (hydrophones that listen) radar, telemetry and optics (visual recording).
“The high-technology capabilities of the range and the location offers a large expanse of available space to safely conduct realistic test events,” Frey said. “The capabilities of the range, together with its location, provide opportunities for programs such as ours to effectively gauge the performance of our systems in a safe, controlled environment.”
PMRF is the world’s largest instrumented, multi-environment military test range capable of supporting subsurface, surface, air and space operations.
The PMRF consists of 1,100 square nautical miles of instrumented underwater ranges, 42,000 nautical miles of controlled airspace and a temporary operating area covering 2.1-million nautical miles of ocean area.
PMRF supports a number of program customers, from fleet training to technology testing. The program utilizes the technology testing capabilities of the range. PMRF offers a collection of sensors that can track from the seafloor up into space.
The range includes approximately 1,100 square miles of instrumented underwater range, surface and air space available on a daily basis, and when needed, any portion of a 2.1 million square mile area to support programs that require an additional room, such as ballistic missile defense and hypersonic systems.
“The relative isolation of PMRF, a year-round tropical climate and an open ocean area relatively free of human interference are significant factors,” Frey said. “PMRF has an excellent record of safely conducting testing and training activities.”
Leading the way
According to Frey, the United States has continued to be the world leader in hypersonic system research for many decades.
The PMRF is pursuing a robust hypersonic missile defense through an approach called “Comprehensive Layered Defeat,” which primarily takes two forms: Left of Launch – Striking hypersonic weapon systems prior to launch, and
Right of Launch – defeating a hypersonic weapon after launch and as early in its flight as possible.
“Those that sought to be our adversaries have decided to develop hypersonic weapon capability, which has created a warfighting asymmetry that we must address,” Frey said.
The Army and Navy plans to field hypersonics systems in the early- to mid-2020s starting in 2023.
The Army’s aim is to transition from development to operational systems at scale to provide the warfighter with the highest quality weapons in sufficient quantities to perform any mission in support of the National Defense Strategy.
Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.