The US Department of Defense has taken a “fast-track, four-phase approach” to developing hypersonic weapons, in an attempt to catch up to China, and mostly Russia.
This was stated by Mike White, Principal Director of Hypersonics at the Pentagon.
The first phase consisted of concept demonstrations, test and evaluation and weapons system prototype, he said.
The second phase was in transitioning promising technology development to concept demonstration.
Phase three will be in accelerated fielding of capability and weapons system prototypes to warfighters, White said.
Finally, phase four, starting with the fiscal year 2022 budget cycle, will be buying hypersonic weapons in numbers and delivering prototypes to the warfighter for future production buys in programs of record.
It is an endeavor undertaken by NASA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Space Development Agency, the Missile Defense Agency and national laboratories partnering in the effort to move this along expediently and effectively.
Recently, the Pentagon ordered the Joint Hypersonic Transition Office to create a university consortium to aid in key science and technology aspects and to train the best and brightest for the next generation workforce.
The current focus is on offensive hypersonic weapons. The bulk of the investment is going to provide theater commanders with lethal, medium- and intermediate-range systems. These will be used to counter any enemy efforts for A2/AD efforts against US forces in the air, land, sea and space domains, according to White.
White said that the defensive side is much more difficult to predict and prepare for because hypersonic vehicles travel with unpredictable maneuverability at over five times the speed of sound at near space levels.
White said that the challenge is tracking and targeting those systems in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. There is currently no effective sensors for that, there are no intercept vehicles and there is no associated architecture.
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