With the Agile Compact Interceptor, the US Navy wants to carry 2 hypersonic interceptors per silo

The US Navy's Agile Compact Interceptor program is one of these new Pentagon initiatives, initiated to respond to recent lessons from Ukraine and the Red Sea.

It must give rise to a new missile designed to intercept hypersonic and endoatmospheric ballistic threats, compact enough so that two missiles can be siled in a single cell of the VLS Mk41.

The Pentagon's 2025 finance bill provides the opportunity to learn more about this program intended to respond to three concomitant emergencies: the decline in the number of escorts and VLS of the US Navy in the eight years to to come, the increase in the anti-ship ballistic threat on a planetary scale, and the arrival of hypersonic anti-ship missiles, requiring new means of interception, beyond the SM-2/3-6, ESSM and Ram already in service.

Intensive use of surface-to-air and anti-ballistic missiles in the Red Sea requires a response from the US Navy

If the conflict in Ukraine was rich in many lessons, whether it be the use of armored vehicles, the predominance of artillery, the role of ground-air defense, the omnipresence of drones and electronic warfare, the intervention of Western navies to protect maritime traffic in the Red Sea from Houthi missiles and drones, constituted the first major engagement of naval units in 40 years, and the Falklands War.

SM-6 launched by a US Navy Arleigh Burke in the Red Sea
Launch of an SM-6 missile by a US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the Red Sea.

Thus, as the combats between the Royal Navy and the Argentine air forces, in 1982, shaped in many aspects the evolution of the doctrines and capabilities of surface units, for many years, this engagement, still ongoing, is already beginning to significantly influence the architectures of surface combatant units, frigates and destroyers, the very ones which are on the front line against Houthi missiles.

Among these RETEX, one of the most significant concerns the intensive use of surface-to-air and anti-ballistic missiles, to counter the drones, cruise missiles and anti-ship ballistics fired continuously by Tehran's Yemeni allies.

Indeed, although being one of the poorest countries on the planet, with a GDP less than $21 billion, even less than North Korea ($30 billion), Sanaa does not seem to encounter any difficulty in renewing its stocks. attack drones and anti-ship missiles.

In addition to the financial problem represented by the use of a missile costing more than $1 million to shoot down a drone costing several tens of thousands of euros, this uninterrupted use of precision munitions by the Yemeni forces has generated an effect which was, until now, only considered by the Navy in the context of a high or very high intensity engagement.

Indeed, the destroyers and frigates deployed to protect civilian maritime traffic in the Red Sea consume their ammunition stocks very quickly, too much, forcing them to stay in the area for a shorter period of time. The problem is even more sensitive regarding anti-ballistic weapons, few in number on board a reduced number of Aster 30 naval units on French, Italian and British frigates, and SM-6 for American destroyers.

Launch of an Aster missile aboard a British Type 45 destroyer in the Red Sea
The Aster 30 and SM-6 are the only two naval missiles to have recorded successful interceptions of anti-ship ballitic missiles in combat to date.

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