The Department of Defense is increasing its research in hypersonic offensive and defensive capability, an area the United States has been a “world leader” in for decades, according to a spokeswoman.
The DOD plans “to base our hypersonic offensive capability off of air, land and maritime launch platforms,” Elissa Smith, department spokeswoman, told The Daily Caller News Foundation on Friday. She said this kind of defense system “requires a persistent and omnipresent space-based sensor architecture.”
While the U.S. has long explored hypersonic research, “we did not choose to weaponize it. Those that sought to be our adversaries have decided to weaponize, creating a warfighting asymmetry that we must address,” Smith said.
“Hypersonic weapons can travel at five times the speed of sound,” according to Raytheon, a leading U.S.-based defense contractor. As a result, these weapons “significantly challenge an adversary’s ability to detect, track, target and engage.”
Dr. Thomas Bussing, vice president of Raytheon Missile Systems, explained how the company’s Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapons Concept (HAWC) program works. (RELATED: Russian Hypersonic Missiles Could Penetrate US Defenses)
“We are flying a HAWC system … ground tests have already happened. The whole point is to simulate what you would experience in flight, so you can create the correct thermal environment. You can model and measure the heat in the vehicle and you can measure the material properties,” he said, according to RealClear Defense.
Kingston Reif, director of Disarmament & Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association, told TheDCNF about hypersonic weapons’ potential “risks to stability.”
“Hypersonic weapons, particularly conventionally armed hypersonic weapons, present under-appreciated risks to stability in so far as their speed, accuracy, maneuverability, and unusual altitude can decrease warning and decision time,” he said.
Reif expressed concern that Congress hasn’t been skeptical enough in its research approvals.
“Congress over the past several years has approved large increases for research and development on hypersonic weapons while asking few questions about the risks,” he said.
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