Drones for Missile Defense

While drones have long been used for intelligence collection and reconnaissance, as well as for targeted strikes, they are now being explored as an option for missile defense. Drones equipped with lasers could identify, track, and eventually destroy incoming missiles at a much lower cost than existing systems, according to Vice Admiral J.D. Syring in his testimony to the House Armed Service Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. Drones could also provide alternative targeting methods alongside ground, sea, and space sensors.
The Cipher Take: The U.S. Missile Defense Agency already operates several such unmanned systems that have successfully performed missile tracking during military exercises held in June off the coast of Hawaii. One of the most important capabilities drones provide is the tracking of “cold body targets” such as missiles transiting space without active rocket propulsion. This tracking throughout the rocket’s flight path could give missile defense systems much better target discrimination that will allow earlier warning and therefore enhanced reaction time.


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