General John Hyten, Vice Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated on August 11 that sensors in orbit that can identify and monitor hypersonic missiles ought to be at the peak of the Department of Defense’s wish list. In a presentation at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium, Hyten said, “I would like to have above sensors that observe everything, define everything that goes on on our planet from a missile standpoint, all the time, everywhere.”

Hyten, a professional space and missile defense specialist who was raised in Alabama, has spoken at the SMD conference on several occasions. He is set to retire in November; thus, this was his final appearance as a military commander. China’s advanced missiles travel at extremely high speeds and maneuver in unanticipated directions, making them difficult to detect by existing missile defense systems meant to follow ballistic missiles. According to Hyten and other officials, DoD should launch sensor satellites in the low Earth orbit (LEO) to conduct global surveillance.

Hyten, who previously served as the chief of the United States Strategic Command, cautioned that the maneuverability and speed of current hypersonic and sophisticated cruise missiles threaten to alter the worldwide balance of power and deterrence equation because the US lacks the capability to counter them. “I desperately want a functionality that will enable us to observe these threats everywhere, all the time,” Hyten added. At the moment, it’s called “unobtainium.”

DoD can develop a space layer as well as a “space sensor infrastructure that can observe dimmer threats, hypersonic perhaps cruise missiles, definitely to be able to assess and classify what those vulnerabilities are,” according to Hyten. The issue at the Department of Defense has been a slow bureaucracy that has been analyzing the problem for years but has not pushed on to field systems, he added. ‘That technology has been accessible for years, and we continue to put it off and refuse to pursue it.”

However, according to Hyten, some advancement is being made. He noted continuing initiatives by the Missile Defense Agency and the Space Development Agency to create and deploy tracking satellites in low Earth orbit. Hyten stated, “We’re going after that problem.” “We need to get there, and therefore we should be capable of doing it rapidly since the technology isn’t tough. It’s more of a bureaucratic barrier in this case than anything else.”

Throughout his military career, missile defense has become a key concern, according to Hyten. He stated, “We have to make things work.” “Why? you might ask. “Because it is a key military capacity that the US needs to be effective in any war situation, period.”