US DoD to accelerate development effort for hypersonic weapons

17 December 2018 (Last Updated December 17th, 2018 19:13)

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is considering accelerating the effort to develop hypersonic weapons in a bid to combat potential advanced threats.

US DoD to accelerate development effort for hypersonic weapons
An illustration depicts Falcon hypersonic test vehicle emerging from its rocket nose cone. Credit: DARPA.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is considering accelerating the effort to develop hypersonic weapons in a bid to combat potential advanced threats.

Speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association-sponsored ‘Hypersonics Senior Executive Series’, DoD officials said that hypersonic weapons are missiles that have the capability to cruise at speeds more than five times faster than of sound.

The US Army noted that countries such as China and Russia are actively involved in the development of hypersonics and reports suggest that these nations have made significant progress.

US defence undersecretary for research and engineering Michael Griffin said: “Hypersonics is a gamechanger.

“In the last year, China has tested more hypersonics weapons than we have in a decade. We’ve got to fix that.”

Griffin highlighted that the US is yet to gain required expertise in the development of solutions such as space-based sensors, along with tracking and fire-control to track counter adversaries’ hypersonics targets.

“In the last year, China has tested more hypersonics weapons than we have in a decade.”

He added: “We can’t separate hypersonics defence from the space layer.”

The DoD has already received approval to proceed with hypersonics development and is seeking competing responses from the industry.

Meanwhile, US Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M Shanahan said the federal government will need to take crucial decisions involving the hypersonics development and engineering phase, operationalising the technology, investment and production.

Currently, the US has the capability to develop air-breathing boost-glide hypersonics systems.

Using boost-glide technology, the US Army has also tested an advanced hypersonic weapon demonstrator in 2011 and 2014.

Last month, SPARC Research received a contract award from the US not-for-profit research and development organisation Draper Laboratory for the propulsion design of a future hypersonic interceptor weapon system.