The top three world superpowers, the United States, China, and Russia are in a new arms race to develop hypersonic missiles and aircraft. In order to be classified as hypersonic, missiles and aircraft would need to travel at Mach 5, which is approximately 3,800 mph.
The United States have been testing an aircraft that has traveled at Mach 5 for 230 nautical miles. The X-51 WaveRider is launched from underneath the wing of a B-52 bomber. Scientists at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base believe that the United States could have fully functioning hypersonic aircraft by 2040.
Current missiles and aircraft in use by the United States are not as fast as the military wants them to be. The U.S. military wants to be able to hit targets much more quickly than current technology allows. The main missile used by the U.S. military is the Tomahawk cruise missile. The missile has a top speed of 550 mph. The F-22 Raptor is one of the fastest aircraft in the U.S. arsenal. Its top speed has not been officially listed, but experts suggest that the F-22 can top out at Mach 2.
China and Russia are also working on the technology needed to build hypersonic missiles. The goal of both countries is to have missiles that will be able to break through the United States ballistic missile defense system. The problem that both countries are facing is in control of the hypersonic missiles. The hypersonic missiles are designed to be erratic in their flight path. The reason for this design is due to the fact that the United States missile defense uses fixed trajectories to defend against incoming missiles.
According to reports by Janes Intelligence, the Chinese Wu-14 has been tested in flight four times. The intelligence reports also claim that the Wu-14 can travel at 7,000 mph.
The Russian Yu-71 was tested earlier this month, but it was not successful. Jane’s Intelligence reports claim that Russia could develop up to 24 nuclear capable hypersonic weapons between 2020 and 2025.
After the Chinese tested their hypersonic missiles at the beginning of 2014, Congress took notice. Members of the Republican House Armed Services Committee issued a joint statement.
“While round after round of defense cuts have knocked America’s technological advantage on its back, the Chinese and other competitor nations push towards military parity with the United States; in some cases, as in this one, they appear to be leaping ahead of us. This situation does nothing to support peaceful coexistence in the Pacific. We have dithered for three decades now, delaying badly needed replacement equipment for our troops, relying on hardware that was built during the Reagan years.”
Based on how complex hypersonic technology is, it is believed that short-range hypersonic weapons are easier to develop as opposed to hypersonic weapons that would have a full global reach.
Will hypersonic missiles lead to a large-scale arms race? Are you concerned with Russia and China developing hypersonic missiles before the United States?
[Image via globalmilitaryreview.blogspot.com]