The HVP was fired from an Army M109 Paladin-based 155mm howitzer and a Navy deck gun during the demonstration. Credit: Handout.

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.

“You’re not supposed to be able to shoot down a cruise missile with a tank. But, yes, you can, if the bullet is smart enough, and the bullet we use for that system is exceptionally smart.”

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

The new cloud-based, artificial intelligence-fueled command center brought together new and legacy ways of fighting wars into the service’s push for joint all-domain command and control.

“The focus is showing we really are building an internet for the military that feels like the internet that we use when we go home, except the things that we’re connecting are very different than the refrigerators, televisions, smartphones,” Roper said.

“They are warfighting systems and the operational need to move data quickly in a way operators understand really came out.”

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.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col James Forrest operates a virtual reality headset in support of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) Onramp 2, Sept 2, 2020, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Hernandez.

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 report said.

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, the report said.

“I am not a skeptic after watching today,” he said.

BQM-167 Air Force target drones served as surrogates for Russian cruise missiles during the test at White Sands Missile Range. Credit: US Air Force photo.