WASHINGTON, U.S. - As both China and Russia boast of having successfully completed their development programs for new technology related to their respective missile programs, the U.S. Air Force is now said to have rushed to boost its own weapons.
According to reports, the U.S. Air Force has now signed a $1 billion contract to catch up with China and Russia, as hypersonic weapons threaten to turn the modern battlefield upside down.
Recently, China and Russia claimed that after developing production lines, they are planning to roll out the new weapons.
While both of these nations have previously made such claims, the U.S. seems to have taken these recent claims seriously.
The U.S. recently handed Lockheed Martin $928 billion to get its own version of an air-launched stand-off hypersonic missile capable of dodging — and speeding — through hostile defences, off the ground.
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement, “This effort is one of two hypersonic weapon prototyping efforts being pursued by the Air Force to accelerate hypersonics research and development. The Air Force is using prototyping to explore the art-of-the-possible and to advance these technologies to a capability as quickly as possible.”
Experts have pointed out that while militaries across the world have, for decades, depended on fast computers, snappy radars and rapid-fire guns and missiles to shoot-down incoming missile threats, hypersonic weapons have threatened to turn the modern battlefield upside down.
With missile threat leapfrogging ahead, weapons experts claim that a hypersonic missile doesn’t even need an explosive warhead at more than 6000km/h.
Further, they pointed out that its speed, combined with its mass, makes it a large meteor with the potential to devastate.
What makes it an even greater threat is that there’s very little that can be done to stop one.
A report pointed out that even if they managed to hit it, computer-guided gatling guns, such as the Phalanx systems fitted to U.S. and Australian ships, don’t pack enough punch to turn one from its path.
Further, point-defence missile systems such as the Evolved Sea Sparrow too will struggle to reach the right place at the right time to make any difference.
Last week, the contract the U.S. handed to Lockheed Martin, is to “design, development, engineering, systems integration, test, logistics planning, and aircraft integration support of all the elements of a hypersonic, conventional, air-launched, stand-off weapon.”
Further, reports revealed that Lockheed Martin has been given no deadline to produce results, but that it also hasn’t yet been given any guarantee the USAF will buy any of the weapons developed by the company.
America’s current hypersonic program includes one co-ordinated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which includes the Tactical Boost Glide program and the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC).
Addressing the House Armed Services Committee, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense and Research Michael Griffin presented a critical view of the country’s slow pace of advancement in this emerging field.
Griffin reportedly said, “The most significant advance by our adversaries has been the Chinese development of what is now today a pretty mature system for a conventional prompt strike at multi-thousand-kilometre ranges. We will, with today’s defensive systems, not see these things coming.”
He added, “It is time for us to renew our emphasis on and funding of these areas in a co-ordinated way across the department to develop systems which can be based on land for a conventional prompt strike, can be based at sea, and later on can be based on aircraft.”