Star Wars: USAF Jumpstarts Hypersonics
|Artist Concept of USAF Hypersonic Vehicle|
As the photo shows, the USAF hypersonic system looks like Star Wars revisited. The US Airforce is jumpstarting 2, new hypersonic weapons programs. A compelling reason: intense competitive pressure from Russia and China which have aggressive hypersonic programs of their own.
The USAF has awarded Lockheed Martin 2 contracts for hypersonic weapons in the past few months worth $1.4 billion. The most recent, last week, is a $480 million contract to design the Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW). Some call it the most dangerous space weapon ever.
Hypersonic weapon systems travel far faster than the speed of sound. They do Mach 5 plus or 3,806 mph. And a key differentiator is that they're highly maneuverable. Right now, the US has no defense system capable of taking them down because of their hyper speeds and maneuverability. That's why this research is so important.
US Military Combined Effort
The Pentagon, USAF, Army, Navy and Missile Defense Agency recently agreed to work together to develop hypersonic boost glide technology. DARPA, the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency, has an important track record on hypersonic technology. It developed a prototype, unmanned hypersonic bomber, the HTV-2 that reached Mach 20 or 15,200 mph before losing control.
Global Arms Race
The competition is intense in the hyper-fast weapons field. Russia just announced it will field test a jet-launched hypersonic vehicle by 2020. China just test-flighted its hypersonic wave-rider, the Starry Sky-2 this month. It reached a top speed of Mach 6 or 4,456 mph. Hypersonic speed is where it's at.