Russia and China are overtaking the US in creating hypersonic weapons, while the Pentagon, despite several attempts to develop them, has virtually stopped working towards this following numerous failures.
Now, realizing that all the superpowers have left the US behind, the Americans are quickly trying to catch up, The Washington Post writes.
According to the newspaper, hypersonic missiles are capable of flying at relatively low altitudes at speeds of up to five miles per second. Taking into account their variable trajectory, different from that of ballistic missiles, it becomes almost impossible for countries to protect themselves from such weapons with current anti-aircraft defenses.
In April this year, the Pentagon closed a contract with Lockheed Martin for the creation of a hypersonic cruise missile prototype. The contract value is US $928 million.
In 2010, Boeing began testing the prototype of the Х-51 Waverider hypersonic missile. However, after two failed releases, the program was suspended.
Meanwhile, Russia has developed the Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which is currently undergoing the testing phase. The modified MiG-31 fighter serves as the missile carrier. In all, 250 test flights have been completed. The missile can evade all existing and developing anti-missile and anti-aircraft defense systems, and can carry nuclear or conventional warheads at distances of up to 2,000 kilometers.
According to The Washington Post, the Pentagon had a special interest in hypersonic weapons during the “hunting” of Osama bin Laden following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
According to William LaPlante, the vice president of Miter, who was previously responsible for purchases for the US Air Force, part of the problem is that the military has relaxed too much.
“It is easy to become technologically arrogant and to assume that we are the best […] However, in Russia and China the engineers are very good,” he said.
This admission of the US’ falling behind in hypersonic warfare comes amidst numerous other recent instances of Russian military technology being recognized as superior to NATO weaponry and being sought out by a number of countries, including NATO members. The US has repeatedly threatened sanctions against countries interested in purchasing Russian defense products.