China's AI defense can reportedly predict the course of hypersonic missiles

And the system only needs 15 seconds.
Ameya Paleja

Researchers at the Air Force Early Warning Academy in China have claimed to have developed artificial intelligence-based technology that can predict the course of hypersonic missiles even as they approach their target at five times the speed of sound, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.  

Hypersonic missiles are the new frontier that countries aim to breach in warfare to have an edge over their adversaries. A hypersonic missile can travel at speeds far more excessive than the speed of sound and stay out of the vision of air defense systems for extended periods, springing a surprise.

Countries like Russia and North Korea have been testing variants of their hypersonic missiles, while the U.S. managed a successful test earlier this month on its third attempt. As more countries are expected to join this group that can fire hypersonic missiles, they need to develop countermeasures against them. 

Can a hypersonic missile be shot down?

Last month, we reported that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was working on a countermeasure for hypersonic missiles. The project entered its phase 2, where the hypersonic jet interactions would be studied in wind tunnels to inform an interceptor's design and model development.  

According to the claims made by the Chinese military researchers, their A.I-based system can determine the incoming missile's potential kill trajectory and initiate a counter-response with a three-minute lead time. The researchers have also published a paper regarding this system in the Chinese journal Journal Of Astronautics, SCMP reported.

According to the researchers, an average hypersonic missile stays within a target zone of 5 miles (8 km), which is quite narrow for a weapon that can traverse distances very rapidly. In addition to this, the missile, however fast, still needs to follow the laws of physics, and every little move it makes to steer away from air defenses while in the air will give off signals about the design, capabilities, and mission. 

How does China plan to do it? 

The researchers plan to use a machine-learning algorithm to learn from the data captured from the early stages of hypersonic flight to determine its probable course in the final stages. While speaking to SCMP, one of the researchers admitted that the data from the early warning system contained a lot of noise, making it difficult for the AI to trace the incoming threat. 

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So, the team developed a unique deep learning algorithm that can remove noise from the signal and works like the human brain to focus on the latest, most important data. The result is a sophisticated A.I. program that can predict the trajectory of hypersonic missiles but needs only the computing power of a laptop to do its job. The results can be determined in as few as 15 seconds, the researchers claim. 

SCMP also reported that a Chinese Navy claimed that a new cannon on its warship could fire 10,000 rounds a minute to defeat a hypersonic weapon. 

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