The U.S. government will roll out a new strategy for a more aggressive space-based missile defense system to protect against existing threats and counter advanced weapon systems being developed by others.
Details about its Missile Defense Review-the first compiled since 2010-are expected to be released during President Donald Trump's visit to the Pentagon on Thursday with top members of his cabinet.
The new review concludes that in order to adequately protect the United States, the Pentagon must expand defense technologies in space and use those systems to more quickly detect, track and ultimately defeat incoming missiles.
Recognizing the potential concerns surrounding any perceived weaponization of space, the strategy pushes for studies.
Specifically, the U.S. is looking at putting a layer of sensors in space to more quickly detect enemy missiles when they are launched, according to a senior administration official, who briefed reporters on Wednesday. The U.S. sees space as a critical area for advanced, next-generation capabilities to stay ahead of threats, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose details of the review before it was released.
It also plans to study the idea of basing interceptors in space, so the U.S. can strike incoming missiles during the first minutes of flight when the booster engines are still burning.
Congress, which ordered this review, already has directed the Pentagon to push harder on this "boostphase" approach, but officials want to study the feasibility of the idea and explore ways it could be done.
The new strategy is aimed at better defending the U.S. against potential adversaries who have been developing and fielding a much more expansive range of advanced offensive missiles. The threat is not only coming from traditional cruise and ballistic missiles, but also from hypersonic weapons.
Current U.S. missile defense weapons are based on land and aboard ships. Senior officials had signaled their interest in developing and deploying more effective means of detecting and tracking missiles with a constellation of satellites in space that can, for example, use advanced sensors to follow the full path of a hostile missile so that an antimissile weapon can be directed into its flight path.
The release of the strategy was postponed last year for unexplained reasons.