China simulates algorithm to evade US's sophisticated hypersonic missile defense system

This could allegedly allow Beijing to learn a lot about Washington's hypersonic defense.
Baba Tamim
Stock photo: 3D illustration of a hypersonic missile.
Stock photo: 3D illustration of a hypersonic missile.


People's Liberation Army (PLA) researchers claim they have created algorithm-based technology to defeat sophisticated hypersonic missile interception systems.

Engineers led by Zhang Xuesong from China's Strategic Support Force Information Engineering University developed the algorithm that analyzes the trajectory of hypersonic missiles in order to avoid detection by missile defense systems, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Saturday.

The algorithm "can analyze the trajectory of these hypersonic weapons to help them avoid missile defense systems, including advanced systems under development" in the US, claimed the engineers in a paper published in the Chinese journal Common Control and Simulation last month. 

According to computer simulations of hypersonic strikes at Mach 8, or eight times the speed of sound, Xuesong's technique could allegedly let China's hypersonic weapons avoid detection.

Old estimation model over AI? 

Zhang's team's solution is based on old multi-model adaptive estimation (MMAE), a statistical procedure used in control systems engineering to create predictions when observations are inadequate or erroneous.

Intercepting missiles, including those in the US under development, can identify and track hypersonic weapons that use infrared sensors to pinpoint moving targets. 

However, the true capabilities of China's hypersonic weapons and their ability to evade US missile defense systems are still unknown. 

According to an expert, China's heat detectors can only see intercepting rockets from a limited perspective. As a result, there is insufficient information to pinpoint the interceptor's exact location.

"You might have an idea, but you can't be sure exactly where it is," an unnamed space scientist told SCMP on the condition of anonymity. 

The MMAE statistical technique has been utilized in missile defense applications for decades. 

While other researchers proposed using AI to solve complex problems in hypersonic missile defense, Zhang's team argued that with minor tweaks, the older MMAE method still worked well. 

Zhang's team claimed that their algorithm could discover an enemy interceptor's model and certain secret design parameters within 10 minutes of launch, estimating its trajectory with an accuracy of roughly five meters (16ft).

Hypersonic race 

In recent years, both China and the United States have prioritized hypersonic weapons as potential game changers in modern conflict. 

China's YJ-21 missile can breach powerful air defenses and strike an aircraft carrier at full speed, said the SCMP report

Suppose one government develops adequate defenses against hypersonic threats while the other does not. In that case, the balance of power may shift, and an arms race may ensue as each side strives to catch up, the SCMP report stressed. 

The development of new defense capabilities against Chinese and Russian hypersonic missiles has been given top priority in US military spending.