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US Trying to Catch Up With Russia, China in Hypersonic Arms Development - Defence Department

Sputnik News

01:06 GMT 03.03.2020

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States finds itself behind both Russia and China after the two countries transitioned from hypersonic technologies to working weapon systems, something the Pentagon has yet to accomplish, two officials in charge of the US Department of Defence program told reporters.

"In past decades we have been world leaders in hypersonic technology, but we have consistently made the decision to not transition that to weapon applications and build weapons systems out of hypersonic technologies", Mike White, assistant director for hypersonics, said at a briefing on Monday. "The Russians and the Chinese quite frankly have both done that. And they have done [that] quite a number of years ago." "It's that transition to the application that got their efforts jumpstarted and that's what we are accelerating now."

Mark Lewis attributed Russia's success to its Soviet-era legacy, while China, according to him, made "huge investments" and used American studies published since the 1940s.

"The Russians have been working in the hypersonic field for quite some time. They started around the same time that we did… We see them essentially building on the Cold War Soviet Union legacy", he said. "China came a little bit late in the game but they have made some huge investments. We did their homework for them."

White and Lewis stated that they are focused on the development of an air-breathing cruise missile capable of delivering a conventional payload and intended primarily for the Air Force.

Mark Lewis has added that the United States is looking into developing technology to help detect hypersonic missiles.

"We certainly have an emphasis on the defensive side, we are looking at ways of doing the detection", he said on Monday. "Our space development agency, for example, is very much focused on technologies that would help us detect these systems."

Lewis said another defensive challenge in dealing with hypersonic weapons is responding to the threat. He said the United States has air defensive systems, but they are not always going to be 100 percent effective when dealing with hypersonic weapons.

On 21 February, Raytheon announced that it had completed work on the first radar antenna for the US Army's low-tier missile sensor, which is designed to detect hypersonic weapons.

The US administration has requested at least $3.2 billion in funding for hypersonic weapons development programs in the next fiscal year, an increase of almost $500 million from 2020. The budget specifically supports increased flight testing to accelerate the delivery of fully operational hypersonic weapons systems.


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