The United States is seeking to acquire “volumes of hundreds or even thousands” of nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles that are “stealthy” and can fly undetected at 3,600 miles per hour, five times faster than the speed of sound.
Why so many? A Pentagon official is quoted in the current issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology as saying “we have to be careful we’re not building boutique weapons. If we build boutique weapons, we won’t—we’ll be very reluctant to—use them.”
The article in the aerospace industry trade journal is headlined: “Hypersonic Mass Production.” A subhead reads: “Pentagon Forms Hypersonic Industry ‘War Room.’”
On March 19, 2020, the U.S. conducted its first hypersonic missile test from its Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.
“Fast and Furiously Accurate” is the title of an article about hypersonic missiles written by a U.S. Navy officer which appeared last year on a U.S. Naval Institute website.
The piece declares that by “specifically integrating hypersonic weapons with U.S. Navy submarines, the United States may gain an edge in developing the fastest, most precise weapons the world has ever seen.”
“Hypersonic weapons,” explains the article by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Andrea Howard, “travel faster than Mach 5—at least five times the speed of sound, around 3,600 mph, or one mile per second….They are similar to but faster than existing missiles, such as the subsonic U.S. Tomahawk missile, which maxes out around 550 mph.”
“While hypersonic weapons can carry conventional or nuclear warheads, they differ from existing technologies in three critical ways,” writes Howard. “First…a one-kilogram object delivered precisely and traveling multiples of the speed of sound can be more destructive than one kilogram of TNT. Second, the low-altitude path helps mask HCMs [Hypersonic Cruise Missiles] when coupled with the curvature of the Earth” and so “they are mostly invisible to early warning radars. And third…they can maneuver during flight; in contrast with the predictable ballistic-missile descend, they are more difficult to intercept, if even detected.”
“By offering the precision of near-zero-miss weapons, the speed of ballistic missiles, and the maneuverability of cruise missiles, hypersonic weapons are a disruptive technology capable of striking anywhere on the globe in less than an hour,” declares the Navy officer.