Moscow demonstrated its ability to hit a metropolitan target with a cruise missile attack on Kyiv. The successful assault exposed vulnerabilities in Ukraine's air defenses, and highlighted similar gaps in the U.S.

The Cruise Missile Defense–Homeland Kill Chain Demonstration would combine existing technologies to better shield cities from cruise missiles. The commander of NORAD and the head of the U.S. Northern Command wants a domestic missile defense system. He says the threat is mostly from Russia. A four-star general warns that Moscow's current technology could allow it to attack American targets from within Russian territory or from ships off U.S. shores. The problem is not limited to one country. We will be in the same place with China within five to 10 years.

The Problem with Cruise Missiles

A cruise missile is an uncrewed vehicle. Most of its flight is spent at a level elevation. Jet engines are used to power cruise missiles. After being propelled by an initial rocket boost, a missile can fly a largely unpowered parabolic trajectory.


Missile defense experts say dealing with the threat of cruise missiles is difficult. They are hard to detect and track. Most of our sensors are designed to detect missiles that fly at a lower altitude than cruise missiles. They don't fly fast. She wants to know if a cruise missile is flying over U.S. territory. Cruise missiles can be armed with non nuclear warheads. Russia and China have the ability to wage a strategic attack. Nuclear deterrence is important to the U.S. defense policy.

Senior Pentagon officials say that Russia has a new family of missiles that could threaten critical civilian and military infrastructure. Weapons could be used to attack American airfields in a future conflict. They could try to stop the deployment of U.S. forces to an overseas fight.

Some of the new weapons raise concerns. One of the missiles is from Russia. It has a range of over 2,500 miles, which makes it possible for bombers to fly well outside NORAD radar coverage to threaten North America. VanHerck's ability to detect an attack and mount an effective defense is challenged by this capability.

Military technology is making NORAD headaches. In the coming months, Russia will field a pair of new, ultra quiet attack submarines that can carry cruise missiles. The Kazan and Novosibirsk can be used to threaten North America from the Pacific.

Defense Measures

The three main components are sensors that detect an incoming threat, shooters that attempt to knock it out of the air, and battle management systems that control the whole process. The first thing the latter have to do is identify a missile, then calculate a trajectory to intercept it, and finally destroy it.


The U.S. military has systems in place to protect ships and troops from these weapons. The Army's system became a household name after it was introduced during the 1991 Gulf War. The Navy can counter cruise missiles with the Standard Missile 6. There aren't many of these assets and they are in high demand.

The Department of Defense wants to preserve its inventory for use in possible overseas operations instead of tying it down to protect vulnerable population centers. The only domestic location currently protected by round-the-clock cruise missile defense is Washington, D.C. This system relies on technology from Europe and is limited to the local area.

Domestic Protection

The Missile Defense Agency is a Department of Defense group that develops new capabilities to counter advanced threats and VanHerck wants to work with them to build a broader cruise missile defense system. The hybrid system might be less rugged and less expensive than the military expeditions abroad. VanHerck has proposed a demonstration of the Cruise Missile Defense. He requested $50 million from Congress. President Joe Biden requested funding for a number of measures to enhance cruise-missile-warning capabilities in his fiscal year 2023 budget.

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The proposed new domestic system will get part of the funds if Congress approves VanHerck's $50 million request. The radar range is the most important factor in determining the effectiveness of a missile defense system. The minimum elevation for an effective tower-based radar sensor is 700 feet above sea level. VanHerck wants to show a tower-mounted radar that can detect incoming missiles. The x-band sensor would deliver the data to the battle management system, which would send a missile to intercept the threat. The X-band is the best part of the spectrum to use for horizon scanning. Mounted on a tower, the x-band sensor would provide high fidelity tracking of all air traffic, as well as electronic identification to distinguish between incoming missiles and routine objects.

Three sessions of one-week exercises would be supported by the rest of VanHerck's $50 million request. The Pentagon says it will use an existing x-band sensor as a surrogate during the demonstration. The MDA needs to conduct a series of mock intercepts in order to prepare for the demonstration. New connections are being developed to allow existing technologies to function as an effective system. The agency signed contracts with two companies in November and is currently working with another. VanHerck would be able to use a live-fire demonstration in a simulation if these companies were to help.


The National Capital Region Integrated Air Defense System architecture will be the focus of the deliverables.

He doesn't know what the best missile-defense solution will look like. He hopes the event will encourage creativity. It could include new twists on current tactics, such as disabling an incoming cruise missile with a high-powered weapon or developing other alternatives to shooting a missile at a missile.

"What I want industry, what I want the Missile Defense Agency and the services to do is let their minds run wild on capabilities to accomplish this mission," he said.