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Raumfahrt - Space Force general: Were not as advanced as the Chinese or the Russians with hypersonic missiles

21.11.2021

american-hypersonic-missile

American hypersonic missile capabilities are "not as advanced" as those of China or Russia, Space Force General David Thompson said Saturday at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, signaling that the U.S. is behind in developing the newest and most cutting-edge weaponry.

Thompson admitted during an interview that the U.S. lagging behind the other two countries is potentially dangerous for national security.

"We have catching up to do very quickly, the Chinese have an incredible hypersonic program," he said. "It's a very concerning development ... it greatly complicates the strategic warning problem."

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The news comes after China tested a missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads that circled the globe over the summer. The launch surprised U.S. officials. Russia also test fired a missile in the arctic on Nov. 18, according to a state-run media outlet in the country.

The U.S. failed its own hypersonic missile tests in October, according to CNN.

According to a memo the Congressional Research Service (CRS) provided for U.S. Congress on Oct. 19, the U.S. is lagging behind China and Russia because "most U.S. hypersonic weapons, in contrast to those in Russia and China, are not being designed for use with a nuclear warhead."

"As a result, U.S. hypersonic weapons will likely require greater accuracy and will be more technically challenging to develop than nuclear-armed Chinese and Russian systems," the CRS wrote.

 

For the fiscal year running through 2022, the U.S. is preparing to spend $3.8 billion on hypersonic missiles, which are defined as weapons that fly at the speed of Mach 5 or more, the memo said.

During his interview, Thompson said hypersonic missiles are "changing the game" for national defense and security, comparing their use to a snowball fight. Typically, you can predict where a snowball is when it's thrown. Yet, if the projectile is thrown in another direction, it's harder to detect — but it's still going to hit you.

"That's what a hyperglide vehicle does," he said, referring to another type of hypersonic missile. "You no longer have that predictability. So every launch of a certain type, regardless of where it's headed, now ha the potential to be a threat."

Quelle: The Hill

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Update: 24.11.2021

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US Has ‘a Lot of Catching Up to Do’ in Hypersonics, Space Force’s No. 2 Says

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One day after the Space Force’s second in command warned that the U.S. is “not as advanced as the Chinese or the Russians in terms of hypersonic programs,” a media report indicated that China’s likely test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic weapon this summer included an added capability.

Financial Times, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, reported Nov. 21 that in July, China launched a hypersonic glide vehicle into space, part of a suspected orbital bombardment system that now is said to have fired a missile while flying at least five times the speed of sound.

The ability to fire a projectile off a supersonic platform is “a capability no country has previously demonstrated,” Financial Times reported. The Wall Street Journal subsequently reported the news as well.

The Defense Department has yet to comment on the latest development, though Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley and Vice Chairman Gen. John E. Hyten have both previously confirmed the nuclear-capable hypersonic test—Hyten said such a weapon looks like a “first-use” weapons in a nuclear scenario.

Space Force Gen. David D. Thompson, vice chief of space operations, spoke at the Halifax International Security Forum on Nov. 20, just before the latest reporting on the additional projectile. But when asked about the hypersonic test more broadly, he noted that the U.S. has “a lot of catching up to do very quickly.”

“The Chinese have had an incredibly aggressive hypersonic program for several years,” Thompson added. “And I agree with Gen. Hyten—it’s a very concerning development. I don’t know if it’s a first-use weapon. I will tell you, it greatly complicates the strategic warning problem.”

Thompson explained the challenges to the strategic warning system by likening the Chinese hypersonic missile to a “magic snowball.”

Ballistic missiles follow predictable trajectories, allowing defense systems to track them more easily. By comparison, a hypersonic missile “changes that game entirely,” Thompson said. Using the example of a snowball fight, he explained that with a hypersonic missile, “I can throw that snowball in this direction, I can throw it in that direction, I can throw it in this direction—and it will maneuver back and it’ll hit you. In fact, it might even fly by you, turn around, and hit you in the back of the head. That’s what a hypersonic glide vehicle does. Combine that with a fractional orbital bombardment system, and I’m going to throw the snowball that way, and it’s going to go around the world, and it’s going to come hit you in the back of the head.”

Such a capability makes the world a “much more complicated place,” Thompson said, especially as the Pentagon works to catch up.

Gillian Bussey, director of DOD’s Joint Hypersonics Transition Office, has said the Army will field the military’s first hypersonic weapon in a “year or two.”

Quelle: Air Force Magazine
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China’s mysterious hypersonic test may take a page from DARPA’s past

"Calling it 'breaking the laws of physics' does not lead to rational scrutiny," Secure World's Victoria Samson said of the recent Chinese hypersonic test.

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DARPA’s Common Aero Vehicle and submunitions, circa late 1990s. (Image: discontinued National Security Space Roadmap website)

WASHINGTON: The ongoing drips and drabs of unclear information leaking from the Pentagon about this summer’s Chinese hypersonic test are raising red flags for physicists and experts, who are questioning whether claims about the results of the test stand up to scrutiny.

The new detail regarding a possible launch or simple release of either a missile or some kind of countermeasure over the South China Sea was first reported on Sundayby the Financial Times (FT), which was the outlet that also originally reported on the launch. This most recent claim, if accurate, would represent a leap in capability — and one that firmly remains in the future concepts basket at the Pentagon.

“From a general standpoint, deploying something at hypersonic speeds, is really, really, really, really hard,” said Mark Lewis, executive director of the National Defense Industrial Association’s Emerging Technologies Institute and an expert on hypersonics. “And if anyone were to do that, that would be super impressive.”

But the “if” in that statement is doing a lot of heavy lifting, and given the lack of publicly available data, it’s unclear exactly when, or if, clarity will truly emerge.

Question One: Is It Possible? 

The basic question at hand with regard to the new report is: could China have successfully launched a submunition from a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) while it was screaming through the atmosphere at Mach 5-plus? And the answer is, perhaps.

There is a historical analog, of sorts. Two decades ago DARPA worked on a project [PDF]  known as the Common Aero Vehicle (CAV), which included a suborbital, hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) that could deliver conventional weapons anywhere in the world within two hours.

DARPA could never get the system to work right, however, due to a number of design problems that ran into the laws of physics, Lewis said. The effort was eventually killed in 2004 by Congress, less due to its technological problems and more out of political concerns that it was strategically destabilizing.

One key issue for deploying submunitions from HGVs is that when two vehicles are moving at above Mach 1, several scientists explained, the two objects create shock waves that can interfere and cause the submunition to bounce back into its parent vehicle, destroying both.

This actually happened, according to the Global Security website, in a 1966 test of an unmanned HGV, called the D-21 Tagboard, launched from a supersonic jet (the precursor of the SR-71). The test resulted in a crash that killed one of the jet pilots and caused legendary Lockheed Martin engineer Kelly Johnson to terminate the program.

To avoid that problem, the CAV was designed to dramatically slow down. And, it is possible that this is exactly what the Chinese HGV did too, several scientists said.

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