JUNE 9, 2021 – Hypersonics is a key element of the Defense Department’s modernization activity, delivering high-speed, long-range lethal effects that can take out high-priority targets on the battlefield, a key Defense Department official said.
Mike White, principal director for hypersonics in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said hypersonics are effective because they fly at sustained speeds around Mach 5, and above, at very high altitudes and are maneuverable. This makes them difficult to intercept and able to reach high-priority targets from long range, in a very short time.
White told the Center for Strategic and International Studies that a lot of science goes into developing hypersonic systems. For instance, at speeds of Mach 5 and above, thermal protection systems are very important because of the heat generated, he said, adding that carbon-based composites are being developed to prevent overheating.
Besides offensive hypersonics, DOD is also working on defensive measures against a potential adversary’s hypersonic systems, he said, referring to Russia and China. Intercept measures are being developed to take out enemy hypersonics in all phases — such as launch, glide and terminal.
The hypersonic systems being developed, he said, include a family of hypersonic weapons that can be launched from the sea, land and air, as well as, a family of weapons to defend against adversary hypersonic capability. As such, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Missile Defense Agency are all developing these capabilities, in cooperation with organizations such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Sandia National Laboratories and industry. There are also initiatives with allies.
White mentioned that Congress and the administration have been very supportive of hypersonics development.
The DOD’s fiscal year 2022 budget request includes $6.6 billion to develop and field long-range fires, including hypersonics, with a goal of testing and producing air, land, and maritime launched weapons by the early to mid-2020’s.
BY DAVID VERGUN, DOD NEWS