Russia Yu-71, US Prompt Global Strike and China’s Wu-14 Hypersonic missile programs

Adm. Cecil D. Haney, Strategic Command’s (Stratcom) senior leader, said during remarks at a nuclear deterrence conference that despite arms control efforts, hypersonic weapons are among several threatening strategic trends emerging in the world.

China has conducted four flight tests of a 7,000 mile-per-hour maneuvering strike vehicle, and Russia is developing high-speed weapons and reportedly tested a hypersonic weapon in February.

Haney said the Pentagon is developing capabilities that can be used to counter hypersonic arms.

Stratcom is in charge of U.S. nuclear weapons and warfighting, and is tasked with protecting and countering threats to strategic space systems and cyberspace, which is used for command and control of both conventional and nuclear weapons.

China was testing extreme maneuvers of the mach 10 (7860 mph) prototype.

Unlike ballistic rockets that re-enter in a predictable path, a hypersonic weapon would be able to constantly change direction.

Russia has been working on the Yu-71 hypersonic vehicle for the last several years. Russia conducted the latest test of its hypersonic missile on February 26, but it was unsuccessful.

Pavel Podvig, a co-author of the Jane’s report, said that the flight test was released atop an SS-19 missile into near space. The missile was launched from the Dombarovsky missile base. The hypersonic vehicle is part of the secret program Project 4022. Over the past five years, Russia has stepped up efforts on its hypersonic missile program to penetrate the U.S. missile defenses.

Russia could produce up to 24 nuclear-capable Yu-71 between 2020 and 2025. Russia is planning to deploy both nuclear as well as conventional configuration. The United States is also developing a hypersonic missile for its Prompt Global Strike program.

Even though both Wu-14 and Yu-71 are nuclear capable, the Chinese program has been more successful.

Ballastic missile flight profile compared to hypersonic x-51 release from B52

The US Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are developing a hypersonic glide delivery vehicle that could deploy on a modified Peacekeeper land-based ballistic missile—a system known as the conventional strike missile (CSM). In FY2008, Congress created a single, combined fund to support research and development for the CPGS mission. Congress appropriated $65.4 million for this program in FY2014 and $95.6 million in FY2015; the Obama Administration has requested $78.8 million for FY2016.

The US Army is also developing a hypersonic glide vehicle, known as the advanced hypersonic weapon (AHW). Like the HTV-2, the AHW would use a hypersonic glider to deliver a conventional payload, but could be deployed on a booster with a shorter range than HTV-2 and, therefore, may need to be deployed forward, on land or at sea.

DOD plans to spend a total of $887.5 million over the next five years. The increase supports planned flight tests in 2017 and 2020.

The National Air and Space Intelligence Center has testified to Congress that China’s hypersonic glide vehicle will be used to deliver nuclear weapons. A variant also could be used as part of China’s conventionally-armed anti-ship ballistic missile system, which is aimed at sinking U.S. aircraft carriers far from Chinese shores.

Russian officials have said their hypersonic arms development is aimed to penetrate U.S. missile defenses.

China has conducted four tests of what the Pentagon calls a Wu-14 hypersonic glide vehicle. The four tests over the past several years are an indication the program is a high priority for Beijing.

The Pentagon is also developing hypersonic vehicles, both gliders and “scramjet” powered weapons. A year ago, an Army test of a hypersonic weapon blew up shortly after launch from Kodiak Island, Alaska.

Stratcom also must protect space assets and cyberspace in a conflict, he added.