Cheap shoot down of a cruise missile with HVP projectile from M109 Paladin

Yes, it can be done. An incoming cruise missile can be shot out of the sky — from an Army M109 Paladin-based 155mm howitzer, no less. “Tanks shooting down cruise missiles is awesome,” Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics, told reporters. “Video game, sci-fi awesome.”

By Dave Makichuk

The US military’s vaunted hypervelocity projectile just took a major step towards knocking incoming cruise missiles out of the sky, Task & Purpose reported, citing a Breaking Defense report.

During the test, the Air Force used the HVP — a low-drag, guided projectile capable of reaching speeds up to Mach 5 — to down a BQM-167 target drone over the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The BQM-167 drone “served as surrogates for Russian cruise missiles” during a demonstration of the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) that’s designed to enable the rapid detection and destruction of incoming missiles, the report said.

The HVP was fired from an Army M109 Paladin-based 155mm howitzer and a Navy deck gun during the demonstration, according to Breaking Defense.

Originally developed starting in 2013 as specialized ammo for the Navy’s much-hyped (and decidedly stagnant) electromagnetic railgun, the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) has since transitioned the HVP for use from conventional powder weapons like Army howitzers and Navy deck guns, the report said.

In 2018, the Navy reportedly test-fired 20 next-generation HVP shells from the USS Dewey’s Mk 45 five-inch deck guns during the service’s annual Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) maritime exercise, the report said.

The advantage of the HVP over conventional missile defenses is a matter of cost: While the standard Evolved Seasparrow Missile or Rolling Airframe Missile cost several million dollars apiece, HVP program manager Vincent Sabio pegged the cost of an HVP at around US$85,000 apiece.

The same logic applies to the standard Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptors that fill mobile THAAD batteries around the world, Sabio added.

“Our finger pauses over the fire button just because we know every time we push it we’re pushing a fair amount of money out of that launcher,” he said of the Patriot. But with HVPs, “You can shoot a lot of those things and not feel badly about it.”

More importantly, new Northern Command head Gen. Glen VanHerck told reporters the demo convinced him that artificial intelligence-driven software systems will be able to actually make recommendations that commanders can rely on to make decisions about what they need to do to prosecute a fast-paced battle with peer competitors China and Russia. “I am not a skeptic after watching today,” he said.