How Could Hypersonic Missiles Work?
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One of the Pentagon's top officials told an audience of defense executives that the U._S. is locked in a tight race with Russia and China to develop a new game changing weapon the could fly at many times the speed of sound in could be used to launch devastating attack upon an emmy in a matter of minutes these which was told by Michael de Griffin the Department of Defense Undersecretary for Research at engineering that of all of the technological marvels at the Pentagon hoped to create developing a hypersonic missile Dole was his highest priority. It's hard to understand why hypersonic missiles technology that could be deployed as soon as the mid twenty twenty s sounds like the sort of exotic menace that villain would dream up in James Bond thriller. We could get them to work. Hypersonic missiles could have the ability to fly and maneuver it speeds between five and twenty five thousand kilometers per hour at a range of altitudes up to one hundred kilometers above earth surface for our non-metric friends. That's about three to fifteen thousand miles per hour at up to. Sixty two miles high at the edge of orbital space these capabilities could make a nightmare to defend against them because they would be moving so fast that it would be difficult to predict where they were about to strike until the last few minutes before impact end because the missiles travel. It's such a high speed their sheer kinetic energy alone would enable them to wreak destruction without carrying any conventional explosives or nuclear warheads. There are different potential methods of attaining fantastic speed what approaches to fire conventional missile that would in turn release smaller hypersonic glide vehicle which would fly up into the upper layers of the atmosphere another approach would utilize a rocket or advanced jet engines such as a scrammed jet military visionaries have in contemplating hypersonic weapons for decades but it wasn't until recently the concept begin to see him close to fruition not due to anyone specific breakthrough in technology but rather due to a combination of progresses and political motivation. We spoke by email with Eon de buoyed a professor of airspace engineering at the University of Michigan. He explained to develop a missile. You I have to show that the platform can fly emission of interest that was demonstrated in the U._S.. In Two thousand ten to twenty fourteen by scrammed jet powered demonstration Asian flights while the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or Darpa to flight tests of their H.. T. V. to boost glide vehicle ended in failure. Significant progress was demonstrated an important lessons learned in an overlapping time period the Pentagon and demonstrated longer range hypersonic vehicle capabilities and their conventional prompt strike program Darpa in the Air Force then partnered to mature many of the systems needed on a platform to make into a weapon as such as the guidance navigation and control materials. Dell's structures and rocket boosters but the U._S. wasn't alone. Interest in developing hypersonic capabilities Boyd said China was watching and learning and at some point started investing hyper sonics since two thousand fifteen it became evident that significant progress was being made that at least in numbers of flight tests conducted appeared to show China Outpacing U._S. efforts and in Russia where they've worked on hypersonic for decades like the U._S. also seem to have had recent successes but test flights in response to the Chinese and Russian progress the trump administration is pushing to develop hypersonic weapons as soon as possible and is requesting funding of two point six billion dollars for hypersonic research by the Air Force Navy Army and Darpa in its budget request for the twenty thousand financial all year the managing editor for National Security for the Center for Public Integrity. One are Jeffrey Smith reported in The New York Times magazine that spending on developing hypersonic weapons could rise to five billion dollars a year as the U._S. pushes to develop a deployable hypersonic or Sonic Missile System in the next two to three years though hypersonic missiles could carry nuclear warheads the missiles being developed by the U._S. will only be equipped with conventional explosives but they'll still be plenty fearsome as Smith wrote in The Times of quote the missiles function like nearly invisible power drills at smash holes in their targets to catastrophic affect. They'll impact their targets with a force equivalent to three to four tons of T._N._T.. According to Speth in some ways hypersonic. Like missiles presented different and perhaps even scarier threat to peace than present nuclear arsenals because they could enable a nation to launch a surprise attack and crippling enemies ability to retaliate leaving it helpless against the threat of nuclear attack. They'd be difficult to defend against I for a number of reasons their speed the fact that they fly in an area between aviation and spaceflight that we've never had to defend in and they're maneuverable meaning that have to be tracked throughout their flight with accuracy Boyd explained another issue quote put this class of missiles is not covered by any currently valid weapons treaty. This poses a number of concerns including the fact that the nation's primarily involved the U._S.. China and Russia do not have established protocols in place for the use of these systems finally only the potential for a hypersonic weapon to carry either a conventional warhead or a nuclear warhead means that a nation under threat wouldn't know whether a nuclear response should be considered that all means that in the near future hypersonic missiles could lead to a continuous atmosphere of hyper anxiety in which nations might be afraid to not strike first or to instantly launch a counter attack at the first hint of trouble or at the very least it could prompt nations to spend even more money on not just counter-attacks but defense measures. Today's episode was written by Patrick J tiger and produced by tyler playing brain stuff is a production of iheartradio's house works for more on this and lots of other military topics that are home planet has networks dot Com and for podcasts from iheartradio iheartradio APP apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.