Network of HBTSS and PWSA satellites: distributed fighter can become a tool for gaining absolute air superiority

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Network of HBTSS and PWSA satellites: distributed fighter can become a tool for gaining absolute air superiority

We have already spoken about the importance of outer space for future wars more than once, for example, in the materials "Critical systems that provide strikes with long-range precision-guided munitions" и "Look beyond the horizon: orbital reconnaissance and strike echelon".

It is difficult to say which of the above has been implemented or is planned for implementation in Russia - everything is shrouded in secrecy here, but in the USA work in this direction is being carried out very actively, it is possible that some of the forecasts regarding the deployment of some segments of the orbital reconnaissance and strike echelon will come true much earlier than expected.



HBTSS and PWSA


On February 4, 2024, the US Space Development Agency (SDA) and the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) launched six artificial satellites into Earth orbit, including two HBTSS (Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor) satellites. hypersonic and ballistic tracking"), designed to track hypersonic and ballistic missiles, as well as other complex air targets, and four PWSA (Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture) satellites.


HBTSS Satellite Image L3Harris

It would seem that there is nothing new - an “expanded and expanded” version of the orbital echelon missile attack warning systems? However, in reality everything is much more complicated.

The US Missile Defense Agency initiated the development of HBTSS satellites in 2018, and L3Harris Technologies Inc. was selected as the satellite's developers and creators. and Northrop Grumman Corporation. It is expected that the full constellation of HBTSS satellites, which should be deployed before the end of 2026, will allow tracking of hypersonic and ballistic missiles throughout their flight, from launch to destruction using interceptor missiles. Such capabilities will allow anti-missile defense (ABM) systems to launch anti-missile missiles even before the target enters the radar coverage area.

In turn, PWSA satellites are part of a large-scale orbital system, which includes the so-called “layers” - transport (communications), sensor (intelligence), presumably, there will also be a navigation layer. In 2023, 23 PWSA satellites were launched into orbit, taking into account the newly launched ones, their number will be 27 satellites; by the end of 2024, it is planned to launch another 160 satellites into orbit, and in the future the constellation will include about a thousand satellites interconnected by high-speed laser transmission channels data like the latest Starlink satellites.

In principle, the PWSA satellites themselves are capable of detecting hypersonic missiles, but their WFOV (Wide-field of View) infrared (IR) sensors do not appear to provide the accuracy necessary to intercept the high-speed targets for which they were launched HBTSS satellites equipped with IR sensors with a medium field of view (MFOV).


An experimental satellite with an IR sensor with a wide field of view. Boeing image

According to Space Development Agency technical director Frank Turner, the HBTSS and PWSA satellites will be the first to have the ability to directly control ground and surface (and possibly even aviation) weapons systems.

The question is, what types of targets can HBTSS and PWSA satellites detect and track?

Goal types


As part of the HBTSS and PWSA satellite programs, they must detect hypersonic and ballistic missiles, as well as other types of targets. What is hidden under the word “others”?

Detection and tracking of targets is carried out by the HBTSS and PWSA satellites using IR sensors, respectively, it is their sensitivity that determines the satellites’ ability to detect targets. It is clear that both hypersonic and ballistic missiles at the initial stage of flight have a powerful IR emission from the rocket engine plume; there is nothing new here; our early warning satellites detect them in a similar way.

For HBTSS and PWSA, the ability to accompany hypersonic and ballistic missiles throughout the flight path, including tracking, is declared planning hypersonic warheads, in which, after separation from the carrier, only weak maneuvering engines operate (if they exist at all, and aerodynamic controls are not used).

True, gliding hypersonic warheads become very hot when descending in the Earth’s atmosphere; according to open data, the temperature of their skin can reach one and a half to two thousand degrees, but only in individual, narrow sections of the body, which is already significantly less than the jet engine torch of a launching rocket.


Glide hypersonic warheads should glow in the infrared range much weaker than the torch of a rocket engine. Image by DARPA

The question is that for the HBTSS and PWSA satellites it is declared that they can track hypersonic and ballistic missiles precisely along the entire flight path, and the same gliding hypersonic warheads immediately after separation from the carrier should have a fairly small IR signature, the same applies to ballistic missiles in the middle part of the trajectory, when they move in the most rarefied atmosphere.

It can be assumed that the IR sensors of the HBTSS and PWSA satellites have a sufficiently high sensitivity, which provides them with the ability to detect even fairly cold targets. In addition, the HBTSS and PWSA satellites are located in orbits at an altitude of about 1 kilometers, which is significantly lower than the 000 kilometers of older early warning satellites in geostationary orbit and designed only to detect the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Apparently, the network of HBTSS and PWSA satellites is initially designed not only for strategic systems, such as ICBMs or gliding hypersonic warheads of the Avangard type, but also for operational-tactical missiles, such as Zircon, Kinzhal and the like . But if so, then the network of HBTSS and PWSA satellites will probably see Iskander missiles, Kh-22 and Kh-32 aeroballistic missiles, anti-ship missiles (ASM) of the Onyx, Granit, Basalt and Vulcan types "


Northrop Grumman HBTSS and PWSA Satellite Network Presentation



By interacting with each other, the HBTSS and PWSA satellites will ensure tracking of targets along their entire flight path, right up to the moment of destruction. Image by Northrop Grumman

Most likely, low-flying cruise missiles of the Caliber complex will be able to avoid detection from space (for now) as well as similar aviation strategic cruise missiles of the X-101/102 type with their economical small-sized turbojet engines (TRD). However, the question of their detection or non-detection also lies in the area of ​​conjecture and assumptions, since the characteristics of the HBTSS and PWSA satellites are classified.

Based on the above, it is highly likely that the network of HBTSS and PWSA satellites is capable of detection from space and jet aircraft. The only question is what types and at what altitudes.

For example, in a jet aircraft, the temperature in the combustion chamber reaches 1–500 degrees Celsius, the temperature of the exhaust gases of a bypass turbojet approaches 2 degrees Celsius, of course, the volume of ejected jet mass will also matter, in addition, the airframe in the engine area heats up , the turbojet nozzles glow.

First of all, aircraft such as heavy strategic missile-carrying bombers Tu-160/Tu-160M ​​and long-range missile-carrying bombers Tu-22M3/Tu-22M3M with their powerful turbojet engines fall into the risk zone. Following them are transport aircraft, such as the An-124 and Il-76, as well as vehicles based on them - early warning and control aircraft (AWACS), tanker aircraft and others.


It can be assumed that the Tu-160’s afterburner could also detect old early warning satellites. Image by the Russian Ministry of Defense

What's next?

And then come the MiG-31 interceptor fighters, Su-35C multirole fighters, Su-34 front-line fighter-bombers and other combat vehicles, also equipped with fairly powerful and hot turbojet engines. Aircraft with turboprop engines are in question, for example, Tu-95MS/MSM strategic missile-carrying bombers, transport and combat helicopters, that is, we are gradually approaching the lower level - low-flying cruise missiles.

Of course, in many respects all of the above assumptions are guesswork, since the author has no data on the sensitivity of IR sensors, but given the progress in the development of IR technologies, as well as the fact that the United States is the undisputed leader in this direction, it is possible It is with great confidence that the network of HBTSS and PWSA satellites provides detection of not only hypersonic and ballistic missiles, but also supersonic operational-tactical missiles, as well as aircraft with powerful turbojet engines.

If this is not implemented in the current satellite package, it will certainly appear in future iterations. We can also confidently assume that the United States will not be able to detect from space such aircraft as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) - kamikazes of the Geranium-2 type, as well as aircraft with an electric engine; everything else, a little hotter, is at risk .

Threats and prospects


Currently, the United States is the clear leader in space exploration, including its use for military purposes, with China breathing down its neck. As for Russia, it’s too early to say - there seems to be some kind of movement lately, but where it will lead us is unknown...

Before our eyes, a revolution is taking place in the exploration of outer space and the impact it has on life, and now death, on planet Earth. Further processes will only accelerate - launch vehicles have already become partially reusable, which has significantly reduced the cost of launching a payload into orbit, and the creation of fully reusable super-heavy launch vehicles will revolutionize space exploration.

The considered program for deploying a network of HBTSS and PWSA satellites in the United States is far from the only one; we have already talked about deployment of a constellation of Silent Barker satellites designed to monitor outer space. And the destruction of satellites and other spacecraft of the enemy must be done thousands of Jackal inspection satellites using the complex Mosaic system, developed by the private American company True Anomaly.


Inspector satellite "Jackal". Image True Anomaly

A huge Starlink space communications network, whose capabilities could potentially go beyond those officially declared The company Capella Space has deployed a private network of satellites for remote sensing of the Earth - read, radar reconnaissance.

The HBTSS and PWSA satellites have already been put into trial operation; it is possible that the enemy is already using them or is preparing to use them in the near future against our aviation during combat operations in Ukraine.

It will be quite difficult to understand that this is already happening. An indirect sign could be a sharp increase in the effectiveness of Ukraine’s air defense systems in terms of hitting targets such as the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, the Iskander operational-tactical missiles, the Kh-22/Kh-32 aeroballistic missiles, Onyx anti-ship missiles (ASMs) used against ground targets. The appearance in Ukraine of THAD missile defense systems or ground-based mobile launchers (PU) of SM-6 Standard anti-aircraft guided missiles (SAM) in Ukraine may also be a wake-up call - there is a high probability that the United States will want to test them in conjunction with HBTSS and PWSA satellites in real combat conditions .


Launcher of the THAD missile defense complex (above) and launcher of the SM-6 Standard missile defense system (below). Image US Army, US Navy

And finally, the most characteristic sign may be the defeat of Russian planes and helicopters in the depths of our territory, at the maximum possible firing range of missiles used by the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system (SAM), and possibly also of the SM-6 Standard missiles, which have a maximum range of up to 240 kilometers.

Conclusions


The network of HBTSS and PWSA satellites poses an extremely serious threat, the “distributed fighter” could potentially revolutionize air warfare, for us it is a direct and present threat.

How to counteract it?

First, you need to at least understand that attacks on our planes and missiles using the HBTSS and PWSA satellite network are already being carried out. Even if we are absolutely sure of this, it will be extremely difficult to prove the fact of use.

Recently there has been a lot of squealing in the United States about Russia’s possible use of nuclear weapons. weapons in space, are they preparing in advance for some kind of accusations on our part?

Surely, arguments will begin again about how we, they say, are knocking down all their satellites, “a bucket of nuts in orbit,” and so on and so forth. Of course, in reality nothing like this will happen, we don’t have a direct conflict with the United States yet, and we won’t touch their orbital infrastructure, what can we say - We are not touching the pathetic drone over the Black Sea, although it is almost certain that it is used to attack ships of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Navy, we are not some kind of Houthis...

And it’s not a fact that we will physically be able to shoot down American satellites faster than they can launch new ones; for this we need "Reapers", and they, apparently, do not yet exist.


Reaper anti-satellite interceptor concept

In general, we are at a new stage of confrontation in the air, with prospects that are not yet fully understood.

One thing is certain - the deployment of a network of HBTSS and PWSA satellites will significantly affect the appearance of promising combat and auxiliary aircraft and will lead to the emergence of new strategies and tactics of combat operations.
32 comments
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  1. 0
    29 February 2024 04: 36
    The dangers for our country from NATO and the United States are multiplying... our country is faced with the urgent question of basic survival in battles with these predators.
    Now we urgently need to develop new technologies in all areas in our economy and society.
    Judging by Putin’s latest statements, he finally realized that they are not going to negotiate with us...they are simply going to destroy us.
    1. -2
      29 February 2024 05: 45
      Lately there has been a loud squeal in the United States about Russia’s possible use of nuclear weapons in space, are they preparing in advance for some kind of accusations on our part?

      - about the dangers: 800 vocational schools and 300 thousand bird students would have already solved the problem. They can solve it in 2025, but the tasks of industrialization must be set. Including in the aviation and space industries

      As the saying goes: the game is not worth the candle.
      There would be no thoughts of attacking Russia.
  2. +3
    29 February 2024 05: 44
    And it’s not a fact that we will physically be able to shoot down American satellites faster than they can launch new ones; for this we need “Reapers”, and they, apparently, do not yet exist.

    That leaves lasers, especially since it is much easier to transfer power from earth to space than vice versa, and IR sensors are quite sensitive to laser radiation.
  3. +4
    29 February 2024 05: 53
    I don’t know whether anyone noticed or not, but judging by the pictures, China is seen as America’s enemy, not the Russian Federation.
    1. +1
      29 February 2024 06: 44
      China, so as not to attract our attention. Remember that they built anti-missile systems in Europe, they shouted about it against Iran, and then they admitted that they were against us.
      1. +1
        29 February 2024 09: 53
        Quote: Carib
        China, so as not to attract our attention. Remember that they built anti-missile systems in Europe, they shouted about it against Iran, and then they admitted that they were against us.

        They didn't admit it. And they should be used against us in Canada and Alaska, and not in Europe. Our rockets fly through the North Pole, and not the long way through Europe.
        1. 0
          29 February 2024 09: 56
          Here, for example, is the shortest trajectory Ural-New York.
          As we see, missiles need to be installed in Norway, Iceland, Greenland, and Canada. If you turn along the way. But not in Romania or Bulgaria.
          1. 0
            29 February 2024 14: 42
            Quote: BlackMokona
            As we see, missiles need to be installed in Norway, Iceland, Greenland, and Canada.

            Are they not there on American ships? In Romania there is generally a radar. And it is necessary to protect not only New York, but also American bases in the EU
            1. +1
              29 February 2024 14: 47
              Quote from alexoff
              Are they not there on American ships? In Romania there is generally a radar. And it is necessary to protect not only New York, but also American bases in the EU

              The radar also has nothing to do there against our missiles. But there are also missiles there.

              And to protect American bases from our missiles, they already require missiles in specific countries that need to be protected. Bulgarians, Romanians and Poles are clearly not the countries that the United States wants to protect. Is not it?
              1. 0
                29 February 2024 15: 34
                Quote: BlackMokona
                And to protect American bases from our missiles, they already require missiles in specific countries that need to be protected.

                Not necessarily, you can try to intercept the missiles halfway
                1. +1
                  29 February 2024 16: 07
                  Quote from alexoff
                  Not necessarily, you can try to intercept the missiles halfway

                  Halfway through the journey we will have to install a missile defense system near Moscow wassat
                  1. 0
                    29 February 2024 17: 23
                    Ah, well, then it’s really useless to try to intercept something over Romania, we’ve convinced you!
      2. 0
        29 February 2024 15: 20
        Quote: Carib
        China, so as not to attract our attention.

        Are you seriously? Who the hell needs us? Here it’s time to distract China by pretending that you are fighting Russia. He is much more dangerous and stronger.
  4. +3
    29 February 2024 10: 09
    Such programs need to be approached sensibly. The mere participation of the Russian Federation in such a program can go down the drain financially. This is what happened with Star Wars. Detection of the launch of a modern Iskander-type ballistic missile will not give anything to the US Global Command, nor to the satellite.....nor to the specific Patriot air defense system. Flight trajectories are not along the classical ballistic trajectory...all missile defense is now based precisely on calculating the trajectory and launching the ballistic missile to the lead point...but you can’t calculate the trajectory of modern ballistic missiles that way. There is nothing to say at all about the Onyx type missile launcher and caliber.
    This is what needs to be done - saturating the Air Force with AWACS systems at all levels - both tactical and strategic.
  5. +2
    29 February 2024 10: 26
    The network of HBTSS and PWSA satellites poses an extremely serious threat, the “distributed fighter” could potentially revolutionize air warfare, for us it is a direct and present threat.


    This is how we see this already since 2022: the announcement of an air raid alert on the outskirts does not happen with the wave of a “magic wand”; moreover, they talk about the trajectory/direction of the flight - determining where the air defense should be prepared to meet our “gifts”.
    We also saw how several aircraft were shot down over the territory of the Russian Federation in the summer, and over the Sea of ​​Azov and the Kherson region in the winter.
    this all speaks of very serious work on “their side”, but on ours... only narratives and slogans
    Remember Rogozin - he occupied a serious “position” in our “space”, and how many others like him are sitting out their pants in different structures?
    Moreover, none of them independently left their post...
    and we all hope that “everything is fine” with us
  6. 0
    29 February 2024 10: 33
    In theory, modified HAARP-type ionospheric complexes can quickly disable satellites.
    1. 0
      29 February 2024 12: 32
      I don’t know, please explain, according to my understanding, at 1000 km there is practically no atmosphere, and therefore no ions, what will they influence?
  7. -1
    29 February 2024 12: 18
    Conclusions....

    It’s a good way, Europe and the Americans do this too - first they come up with horror stories about us, then they themselves become afraid.
    The author, before you get scared and intimidate impressionable people, it would be nice to evaluate the current state of affairs in sensors, according to their real capabilities today. OLS, for example, works for a maximum of 90 km, thermal sensors for tanks for a maximum of 30 km - this is what we actually have today. What are the detections of aircraft from 1000 km? Where? Why so much blizzard?
    1. 0
      29 February 2024 14: 01
      Quote: Conjurer
      Conclusions....

      OLS, for example, works for a maximum of 90 km, thermal sensors for tanks for a maximum of 30 km - this is what we actually have today.

      What exactly limits the detection range? Most likely, the resolution of the IR matrix. The longer the IR wavelength, the larger the pixel. Therefore, for high resolution in the thermal range, a large matrix and optics of appropriate sizes are needed. For ground vehicles there are restrictions in this regard. In space you can afford more.
      1. 0
        1 March 2024 11: 55
        What exactly limits the detection range?
        In IR - sensitivity, in optics - contrast, taking into account interfering factors. In any case, the difference between 30, 100 km and 1000 km must first be overcome, and then scream about everything being lost.
        1. 0
          1 March 2024 12: 12
          Quote: Conjurer
          In IR - sensitivity, in optics - contrast, taking into account interfering factors. In any case, the difference between 30, 100 km and 1000 km must first be overcome, and then scream about everything being lost.

          Sensitivity, taking into account the brightness of the radiating hot gases, m.b. not so critical. As for interference, the difference between 100 km and 1000 km may not be so big when viewed from space, which starts from hundreds of kilometers above the earth.
          And who is screaming about “everything is lost”?
          1. 0
            5 March 2024 12: 16
            The author screams about “everything is lost”, and out of the blue, without understanding the essence of the issue.
            Brightness will not help you, because with increasing distance its effect decreases (look at the stars).
            Interference for optics also increases critically with distance, otherwise OLS would have long ago replaced radar, especially the target against the sky. And for the satellite - a target against the backdrop of the Earth, it’s like a dance with tambourines.
            1. 0
              5 March 2024 12: 28
              Quote: Conjurer

              Interference for optics also increases critically with distance, otherwise OLS would have long ago replaced radar, especially the target against the sky. And for the satellite - a target against the backdrop of the Earth, it’s like a dance with tambourines.

              The increase in interference with distance occurs in atmospheric conditions, and at 100 km. it is no longer above the ground. As for the earth's background, a filter that cuts off visible radiation can help here. Of course, false targets remain, in the form of combustion sources, but they can also be eliminated according to the principle of standing and moving. Combining this image with a separately obtained visible range image is not difficult.
              1. 0
                7 March 2024 11: 48
                It won't work that way. The IR sensor does not need to cut off visible radiation, it does not perceive it anyway, but its sensitivity is not enough to identify a target (except for the rocket engine flame) from such a distance, otherwise everything would have happened long ago. So there will be nothing to combine with a picture in the visible range, and highlighting a target blurred by interference against the background of the Earth in the visible range is just a trick. Movement and parallax won't help you much either - the range is huge, the target's speed is small (compared to yours).
                1. 0
                  7 March 2024 12: 42
                  Quote: Conjurer
                  sensitivity is not enough to identify a target (except for a rocket engine flame) from such a distance, otherwise everything would have happened long ago. So there will be nothing to combine with a picture in the visible range, and highlighting a target blurred by interference against the background of the Earth in the visible range is just a trick. Movement and parallax won't help you much either - the range is huge, the target's speed is small (compared to yours).

                  Only the torch can be tracked, the rest is additional study using the coordinates of the torch.
                  Combination will help with this.
                  The speed of the target compared to the geostationary is sufficient.
                  And the movement of the torch against the background of the visible picture is quite noticeable. If two cameras of different sensitivity ranges are rigidly mounted on the same platform, and the subject of shooting is significantly distant, combining images from these two cameras is not a problem.
                  On the monitor it will look like a target mark (torch) against the background of the earth's landscape. It is also possible to roughly identify a target as a missile/aircraft by the nature of its movement.
                  1. 0
                    14 March 2024 13: 16
                    Can you imagine the difference between the torch of an ICBM engine and an aircraft? The multiplicity of this difference. So far, only ICBMs are detected from orbit using IR at the moment of launch.
                    The parallax thing was also funny. Have you heard about rangefinders? Do you know at what distance they operate?
                    1. 0
                      14 March 2024 13: 33
                      Quote: Conjurer
                      Can you imagine the difference between the torch of an ICBM engine and an aircraft? The multiplicity of this difference. So far, only ICBMs are detected from orbit using IR at the moment of launch.
                      The parallax thing was also funny. Have you heard about rangefinders? Do you know at what distance they operate?

                      The difference in the size of the torches is manifold, yes. But optics can also be used with a matrix many times larger in area.
                      What's funny about parallax? I missed something from my speech request ?
                      1. 0
                        19 March 2024 13: 15
                        If two cameras of different sensitivity ranges are rigidly mounted on the same platform, and the subject of shooting is significantly distant, combining images from these two cameras is not a problem.
                        There will be no displacement there. Because displacement is parallax, but at such a distance, taking into account such a base, it cannot be found there. Parallax is how rangefinders work (previously on battleships, for example), due to it you can separate a near object from a distant one, i.e. identify a possible target, but not with such a base in comparison with the distance to the target.
                      2. 0
                        19 March 2024 13: 22
                        I wrote about combination two pictures into one, and not about displacement. It was meant that a picture depicting only torches, cutting off the entire visible range of light, would be inconvenient to perceive without reference to the area. I know about rangefinders and parallax) Any owner of a rangefinder camera was previously familiar with this thing.
  8. 0
    29 February 2024 13: 00
    Just one question. How are these satellites going to be seen in the IR range through the clouds?
    And it immediately becomes clear that at least half of the article (regarding aircraft detection) is nonsense.
    Physics had to be taught at school.
    1. +1
      29 February 2024 15: 35
      Stated targets usually fly above the clouds
  9. 0
    29 February 2024 14: 03
    Using a ramjet can also significantly cool the outgoing exhaust; of course, this will require some design changes. In principle, one can assume how one can combat such an intelligence approach. The fact that these satellites are located in lower arbits than the early warning satellites of the old type is also a “+” regarding the possibilities of disabling them in the event of a major conflict.
    US dependence on satellites is growing, despite the fact that they themselves (and especially lightweight structures) continue to be quite vulnerable structures.