USA Increasing hypersonic weapons program funding again to try to get to deployable weapons early in 2020s

The US is planning to scale up development and testing of hypersonic missiles again.

Conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) hypersonic weapons would allow the United States to strike targets anywhere on Earth in as little as an hour. This capability may bolster U.S. efforts to deter and defeat adversaries by allowing the United States to attack high-value targets or “fleeting targets” at the start of or during a conflict. Congress has generally supported the PGS mission, but it has restricted funding and suggested some changes in funding for specific programs. CPGS weapons would not substitute for nuclear weapons, but would supplement U.S. conventional capabilities. They would provide a “niche” capability, with a small number of weapons directed against select, critical targets. A ‘hypersonic’ weapon would reach speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10. There are hypersonic designs with speeds up to mach 20.

The DOD budget request for FY2016 includes $78.8 million for Prompt Global Strike Capability Development. Within this total, DOD has allocated $2 million to the HTV-2 program—the Hypersonic Glide Experiment and Conceptions Demonstration Support—line and $72.95 million to the AHW—Alternate Re-Entry System/Warhead Engineering—line. The request also includes $2.9 million for CPGS studies and $1 million for test range development. This request, along with the plans to move forward with the testing program for the AHW, further indicates that DOD has essentially concluded the HTV-2 program and is moving toward the development and deployment of a system using the AHW glider and an intermediate-range booster, possibly deployed 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.

Army Advanced Hypersonic Weapon

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. It would be based on a conical design, rather than the wedged-shape design of the HTV-2. Upon nearing a target, the weapon would be able to maneuver and home in on target using precision guidance system.

Congress appropriated $1.5 million for the Army’s hypersonic glide body, now known as the advanced hypersonic, weapon in FY2006, and added $8.9 million in FY2007 DOD allocated $29 million of the combined fund for CPGS to the Army’s program in FY2008, $13.9 million in FY2009, $46.9 million in FY2010, and $69 million for FY2011. Congress appropriated $91 million for this alternative in FY2012, and DOD requested an additional $42 million for FY2013. As was noted above, Congress increased CPGS (Conventional Prompt Global Strike) funding in FY2013, and, after sequestration, the AHW portion of the budget received $147.8 million. Congress appropriated an additional $55 million for the AHW in FY2014, and $90 million in FY2015. DOD has requested $73 million for FY2016, but the budget documents show that it expects funding to increase steadily in the next five years, increasing to $176.2 million in FY2107 and reaching $221 million in FY2020. The budget documents indicate that 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 Army conducted a successful flight test of the AHW on November 17, 2011. The system launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii, and used the strategic targets system (STARS) booster stack, which is derived from the Navy’s Polaris ballistic missile. According to press reports, the vehicle traveled 2,400 miles, from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii to Kwajalein Atoll. There was a failed test in 2014.

DOD plans to move forward with the test program for the AHW. It has now scheduled a flight experiment of a “scaled” version of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon for 2017, with a second planned in 2020. According to the FY2016 budget request, DOD will use FY2016 funds to “continue manufacturing and testing” the booster and hypersonic glide vehicle that will be used in the test. FY2016 funding will also support industry development of a new intermediate-range booster for the program.