As the threat of hypersonic weapons continues to grow, one of the Pentagon’s top research and development arms is moving ahead with a new project to explore ways to guard against them. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Glide Breaker project will look into various “component technologies” needed for one or more defense systems, but will focus heavily on a hard-kill interceptor to knock the fast-flying weapons out of the sky.
DARPA showed off concept art of the interceptor portion of Glide Breaker for the first time at its D60 Symposium, which honors the organization’s 60th anniversary, in September 2018. The agency’s Tactical Technology Office had previously hosted a gathering to explain the project and its requirements to interested parties in July 2018.
“The objective of the Glide Breaker program is to further the capability of the United States to defend against supersonic and the entire class of hypersonic threats,” DARPA said in an announcement for the July 2018 Proposers Day. “Of particular interest are component technologies that radically reduce risk for development and integration of an operational, hard-kill system.”
So far, there are few other publicly available details about the program. In its budget request for the 2019 Fiscal Year, DARPA did not ask for any money for Glide Breaker specifically or for research and development of hypersonic defense systems broadly.
DARPA has successfully initiated "Breaker" programs, including Assault Breaker and Tank Breaker, which have laid the technological foundations for fielded military capabilities.
Some of DARPA's efforts supporting the development of critical technologies related to hypersonic boost-glide systems can be seen in their Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) program. TBG is a joint DARPA/U.S. Air Force (USAF) effort that aims to develop and demonstrate technologies to enable future air-launched, tactical-range hypersonic boost-glide systems. In a boost-glide system, a rocket accelerates its payload to high speeds (usually hypersonic or greater than Mach 5). The payload then separates from the rocket and glides unpowered to its destination.