The new arms race is on and the technology could change warfare forever. The goal, according to the Pentagon, is to have operational hypersonic missiles in use by 2020.
What would these missiles do? Fly at 5 times the speed of sound (3,500mph) and carry conventional missiles to distant lands in a shorter amount of time than ever thought possible.
The latest class of hypersonic missiles would be smaller, guided and designed to carry conventional explosives for time-sensitive, rapid response in theater operations.
Launched from the ground, aircraft, surface ships or submarines, hypersonic missiles would allow warfighters to strike time-critical targets at long range much faster.
There are two kinds of approaches to solving the hypersonic challenge: ‘scramjet’ and ‘boost glide.’ The air-breathing scramjet relies on high speed for its power.
As it accelerates, more air and fuel is pushed into the engine, allowing it to accelerate even more – to hypersonic speeds.
The boost glide model rides a reentry vehicle to extremely high altitudes, where it skips across the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
The U.S. claims that these weapons are only for traditional weapons and not nuclear ones, although officials allege that Russia and China are seeking them for that apocalyptic purpose.
Here are a couple infographics that share some more info on what this technology could look like:
Darpa, the research wing of the Pentagon have already awarded Raytheon and Lockheed Martin $20 million and $24 million, respectively, to develop this technology by 2020. The progress is well under way with the development of the Lockheed Martin Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 program, the Raytheon Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), and the Raytheon/Lockheed Tactical Boost Glide.
For years we have heard of hypersonic flight being researched but mostly for civilian travel. This no longer seems to have been the case.
This technology could radically reshape how payloads are delivered and could have disastrous consequences if communication between competing countries isn’t frequent.
Do you think a nuclear strike will happen using hypersonic travel? Sound off in the comments below!