Previously the US Air Force had plans to develop hypersonic missiles, hypersonic drones and hypersonic planes by the 2040s. However, Russia and China are deploying hypersonic missiles now, so the transition to a full range of more capable hypersonic weapons will be accelerated. The hypersonic missiles being introduced now and over the next few years have speeds of mach 5 to mach 20. This will be followed by more mature hypersonic weapons.
Russia’s Kinzhal has a claimed range of more than 2,000 km (1,200 mi), Mach 10 speed, and an ability to perform evasive manoeuvres at every stage of the flight.
China’s HGV warhead, the DF-17, will be the first hypersonic glide weapon.
Avangard (also called Objekt 4202, Yu-71 and Yu-74) is a hypersonic glide vehicle developed by the Russian Federation using a Scramjet engine, that can be carried as a MIRV payload by UR-100UTTKh, RS-26 Rubezh and RS-28 Sarmat superheavy ICBM and can deliver both nuclear and conventional payloads. Avangard reaches speed of Mach 20 and is capable of sharp high-speed evasive manoeuvres in flight.
The US will be spending billions to have Lockheed and other develop hypersonic missiles and other weapons.
Now to 2025
For the next 7 years, there will be relatively small numbers of hypersonic missiles introduced. The US will have high-velocity projectiles for all of its conventional naval and army guns. Those will be fired at mach 3 which would be double the speed of a conventional projectile but below hypervelocity mach 5 and faster.
Materials, engines and other hypersonic related technologies will be improved. This will increase the speed and range of weapons. The first hypersonic drones will likely be created. This will enable reusable weapons.
SpaceX should create the BFR rocket. This will be fully reusable and able to launch 150 tons into orbit. It is also being developed for Mach 25 hypersonic travel between any point on earth. This will transform access to space by lowering costs by over ten times while increasing launch capacity.
The US and Europe are funding and developing the Reaction Engines Skylon spaceplane. Adapting the cooling and engine technology to a smaller fighter sized mach 5 military vehicle prototype could be possible by 2025.
China and USA will be testing their first railgun weapons on Navy ships and on land. China already appears to have a test railgun on a ship and the US has been testing a railgun on land.
Combat lasers will be deployed with power levels up to a few hundred kilowatts.
Thousands of internet satellites will be deployed.
The speed and range of next-generation hypersonic weapons will be increased. The numbers of hypersonic weapons will be greatly increased. Hypersonic drones will be deployed.
Offensive capabilities will be far superior to defensive systems. Megawatt combat lasers would be somewhat effective in defending against hypersonic weapons. The military will continue by developing more offensive systems. The best defence is a good offence.
Mach 20 hypersonic missiles will be moving at 4 miles per second and Mach 25 missiles at 5 miles per second. This will make it difficult for even very high power lasers to defend.
The SpaceX BFR is planning to have point to point flight schedules multiple times per day for the same vehicle. SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell has talked about flying ten times per day by 2030 with commercial point to point passenger travel.
Tens of thousands of internet satellites will be deployed.
2035 and beyond
Hypersonic drones and planes will depend upon the development of new engines. Aerojet Rocketdyne is developing turbine-based combined cycle engine. It is a three in one engine that will operate at low speed all the way through hypersonic speed. China also has an extensive hypersonic engine program.
Spacex Launch can be used for hypersonic weapons that can hit anywhere on Earth in minutes
Kinetic orbital strike (rods from god) is the hypothetical act of attacking a planetary surface with an inert projectile, where the destructive force comes from the kinetic energy of the projectile impacting at very high velocities. Then dropping several ton metal rods just allows has gravity to accelerate them to mach 10. They would have some directional control with some control fins and technology similar to JDAM bombs. This has far less development risk and complexity than developing hypersonic technology in the current projects.
SpaceX BFR could deploy tens of thousands of metal rods and their orbital platforms and place them into position.
Small rods or missiles that release a cluster of metal balls can be used to take down enemy missiles like ICBMs (particularly in the boost phase) and they can be used to fire downwards at any missile targeting the Rods from Gods platforms.
Mach 30 accelerated weapons could strike anywhere on earth from orbit in about 30 seconds.
2035 and beyond will see the transition of new military planes having hypersonic engines.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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