In recent years, the United States has been ranked “number 3” in the world in hypersonic weapons development by senior Pentagon officials and weapons developers behind Russia and China.
The Military has undoubtedly taken notice of the recent headline-grabbing hypersonic weapons tests and demonstrations conducted by both Russia and China.
Much is known about Russian and Chinese hypersonic weapons, which are highly visible and often featured in their respective state media. The United States has been making rapid progress in the hypersonic arena, despite most people’s attention being focused on Russia and China due to their hypersonic weapons.
USA and nuclear weapons
The Navy expects to equip its Zumwalt destroyers with hyper sonics by 2025, and the Air Force and Army have already begun “shooting” next-generation hypersonic weapons.
“After separating from the aircraft, the ARRW’s propellant ignited and burned for its predicted duration, reaching hypersonic speeds five times the speed of sound,” an Air Force statement said last year.
A weapon rapidly approaching operational maturity, the ARRW clearly brings paradigm-shifting dimensions to the airstrike. The weapon can reach speeds of up to Mach 20 and attack ground and surface targets from the air.
For instance, with its long-range sensors and ARRW, an F-35 might locate and destroy hostile ships or surface drones while remaining safely at a safe distance. New strategies and significantly increased assault velocities are on the horizon with the introduction of hypersonic-capable aircraft.
Hypersonic weapons in the Army
The Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon, a new weapon with a sliding body warhead shared by the Army and Navy, is on schedule for completion this year. The “Dark Eagle” long-range hypersonic weapon will fire off two hypersonic missiles from each of the four launchers.
Transportable aboard an Air Force C-17, the LRHW is intended to be road-mobile to hit endangered targets from multiple locations to maximize surprise and speed of attack.
Perhaps most importantly, Army weapons developers are already thinking about next-generation applications of hypersonic weapons by developing a “technology insertion” program to allow hypersonic attacks to hit “moving targets.”
We have prioritized the immediate implementation of technology. By coordinating with the weapon in flight, we can hit a moving or relocated target and maintain several targets at risk.
We will also improve the warhead,” Robert Strider, a deputy in the Army’s Office of Hypersonic Projects, told an audience several years ago, in 2021, at the Missile and Space Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.
Navy hypersonic missiles
A marine variant of the Navy’s Tomahawk missile can reroute itself in flight to respond to moving targets on the open sea, and the missile itself includes a two-way data link that allows it to do so.
The Navy’s SM-6 missile has a dual-mode seeker that allows the weapon to send an electromagnetic ping, analyze the return, and adjust the course to destroy repositioning targets. Hellfire missiles, artillery, and even air-dropped bombs are frequently guided to their targets by semi-active laser dots.
Targets in motion can be accurately struck, course correction during flight is possible, and a single missile can attack several targets with multiple reentry vehicles.