Pentagon Research and Development chief Mike Griffin has all-out push to catch up with Russia and China in hypersonic weapons.
The US Army’s Alternate Re-Entry System is funded at $197 million in 2018. The Alternate Re-Entry System was previously called the Advanced Hypersonic weapon program. It is the primary warhead being used by the Air Force. The US Air Force has awarded over $1 billion in hypersonic contracts.
The pieces of the programs are being combined. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the Army’s hypersonic warhead had worked much better than the Air Force warhead. The US will take the Army warhead, put it on an Air Force booster, launch it off of a B-52. The Army is developing the ground launch version. The Navy will put them on ships.
There will be hypersonic weapons tests in 2020 and 2021 and the weapons will be fielded around 2022-2024.
A “boost-glide” weapon uses an ICBM-style booster to reach hypersonic speeds. It detaches and flies through the atmosphere. A true hypersonic cruise missile would have engines that thrust continuously throughout its flight. A boost-glide weapon glides at over 3,800 mph.
Hypersonic boost-glide has three advantages:
* The radar and heat signature are easily distinguished from those of any ICBM, reducing the chance the target will panic and launch nukes.
* The glider warhead is a very hard target for current ballistic missile defense systems
* The warhead speed and movement is beyond current cruise missile defenses
The US wants to deploy a hypersonic kill chain.
The kill chain
* detects the target
* tracks it precisely as it moves
* makes the decision to fire
* strikes the target
* assesses the damage and
* decides whether to fire again.