US to Ensure Technological Edge over China and Russia in Hypersonic Weapons

By | May 11, 2017 08:52 AM EDT
Too fast

Hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) about to unleash from its deployment bus. (Photo : USAF)

The U.S. Air Force will accelerate the development of hypersonic aircraft and weapons -- including hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) that can carry nuclear warheads -- to maintain its diminishing lead over China and Russia in this critical warfighting sphere.

Air Force senior leaders met last week to accelerate hypersonics research and development to ensure the U.S.' continued technological superiority.

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Hypersonics refers to flying at five times the speed of sound, which is also known as Mach 5 (6,000 km/h) or higher. For the Air Force, hypersonics is a game-changing capability that can greatly enhance the speed, range, flexibility and precision of an aircraft or weapon.

"We must push the boundaries of technology in every area," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.

"Our adversaries aren't standing still. They are looking for every advantage they can get."

An air force study acknowledged China and Russia are already flight testing hypersonic weapons.

"We're accelerating our research in this area," said Acting Secretary of the Air Force Lisa S. Disbrow.

"The benefits of this technology for our nation's defense are wide ranging, from offensive capabilities to defensive systems. This is a high priority for the USAF."

The air force has also laid the groundwork for a longer term coordinated effort in policy, operational concepts, science and technology efforts, acquisition, and test and evaluation.

Despite inroads made by China and Russia, the US remains top dog in hypersonic weapons development and is pouring money into a series of multimillion dollar projects.

The Pentagon continues to lavish money on hypersonic research with the goal of building hypersonic missiles that hurtle towards distant targets at between Mach 5 to Mach 20 (25,000 km/h). Funding for hypersonic research jumped 50 percent in the Department of Defense budget request for 2017.

The U.S. Air Force plans to test a hypersonic missile by 2020.

Among others, the Pentagon is funding the Lockheed Martin Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) program; the Raytheon Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) and the Raytheon/Lockheed Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) program.

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