The United States Department of Defense explains its hypersonic ambitions.
The United States Department of Defense has confirmed that it is embarking on a strategy to ensure that the US is able to effectively integrate hypersonic weapons systems into its defence strategy.
Following the example set by competing super powers, the US military has noted that hypersonic fighting capabilities (which take place between 80,000 to 200,000 feet at speeds usually greater than MACH 5) are crucial for US defence.
Principal director, hypersonics in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD R&E), Mike White, confirmed the creation of a delivery strategy of hypersonics to Defense.
White, at the Air Force Association’s Aerospace Warfare Symposium, confirmed the Department's following steps for onboarding the systems:
- Develop the product and demonstrate whether it will be effective;
- Research weapon-technology that can be onboarded onto the hypersonic system;
- Testing and onboarding the weapons system; and
- Expansion of the construction and delivery process.
At the symposium, White outlined that "we will deliver strike capability to the warfighter in the early-mid 2020s and a layered hypersonic defense capability — first terminal and then glide phase — in the mid-late 2020s. For reusable systems, our goal is to deliver capability in the early to mid-2030s".
Air Force Brigadier General Heath Collins of the Air Force Materiel Command outlined that they are already in the process of developing a prototype for the AGM-183A (ARRW) missile with Lockheed Martin. The ARRW is known to hit speeds greater than MAach 5, but it is hoped that future hypersonic missile prototypes will hit speeds up to Mach 20.
“We're also getting ready to transition into production within about a year on that program, so it will be the first air-launch hypersonic weapon that the Air Force has,” he noted.
"We're really proud to be in the hypersonics weapon enterprise at this point in this exciting time, and we're just on the cusp of an operational capability."