The urgency for hypersonic weapons is because of a growing capability gap the American military seeks to close and the very real risk that China and Russia may field hypersonic technology in advance of the United States.
Hypersonic weapons travel faster than 3,600 miles per hour (6 miles per second, 5 or more times faster than the speed of sound) and currently, no military possesses a credible defense.
For years, the Department of Defense treated hypersonics like a mildly interesting science project—spending just enough to keep the concept alive, but too little to realize any operational capability. Today DARPA and the Air Force are leading the way with key industry partners on contracts to develop operational capabilities. Lockheed Martin has been awarded over a billion dollars in contracts to develop two hypersonic weapons and DARPA is soliciting ideas for a “Glide Breaker” hypersonic missile defense system. Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing also are engaged in this realm.