Issue Briefs

Are U.S. Missile Defenses Vulnerable To Cyberattacks? (From 1945)

Are U.S. Missile Defenses Vulnerable To Cyberattacks? (From 1945)

Daniel Goure

November 18th, 2021

The Chinese hypersonic missile threat has made the United States rethink its missile defense approach. U.S. defense officials recognize that America’s missile defense capabilities, while formidable, are designed to track and shoot down traditional ballistic missiles and would struggle with hypersonic systems. MDA is looking at developing a specialized sensor constellation, called the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor system that will provide continuous tracking of both hypersonic and regular ballistic missiles. The HBTSS network will provide high-quality tracking and targeting for existing theater and homeland missile defenses such as the Aegis/Standard Missile, THAAD and National Missile Defense systems. In the event of a breakthrough system that counters hypersonic threats, that capability needs to be resilient and protected from an “x-factor” threat that would undermine the technological feat it represents. One of the most serious of these is a strategic cyberattack that could render missile defenses useless. I have written more on protecting U.S. missile defenses from cyberattacks here.

The views and opinions expressed in this issue brief are those of the author.

Daniel Gouré, Ph.D., is a vice president at the public-policy research think tank Lexington Institute. Goure has a background in the public sector and U.S. federal government, most recently serving as a member of the 2001 Department of Defense Transition Team.