Russia, US, China Aggressively Compete To Develop Hypersonic Weapons

Russia is looking at developing defensive systems against hypersonic weapons before other countries do. Vladimir Putin, the Russian President said Russia is the only country to have hypersonic weapons. “But we also understand that the world’s leading countries will develop such weapons sooner or later. It would be better for us if they do it later.”

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Putin said Russia must develop means to protect the nation from such weapons before hypersonic weapons are put on combat alert in the armies. “We must continue to equip the Aerospace Forces with the most advanced missile defense systems, including S-400 long-range systems and short-range systems,” Putin said one of the key tasks is to increase control over the airspace.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has also shown a keen interest in developing hypersonic weapons. This may be the reason, Russia is rushing towards developing anti-hypersonic systems. However, Iain Boyd, Professor of Aerospace and Engineering at the University of Michigan says US interest in hypersonic vehicles, over the past 60-years has waxed and waned.

“An early success was the X-15, a hypersonic test aircraft with a maximum speed of 4,500 mph that was flown from 1959 to 1968. The X-15 flew 199 times and only experienced two failures, of which one resulted in the death of the pilot. It set the stage for the development of the space shuttle, which flew from 1981 to 2011. The next ramp-up in hypersonic activity was the National Aero-Space Plane Program from 1986 to 1993, which never built a prototype.”

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Now, Boyd says the United States is back in the hypersonic race. The Pentagon has declared hypersonics to be its number one research and development technical priority. According to Boyd, China and Russia have become increasingly interested in hypersonic weapons.

“Since 2005, China has published more research papers at key hypersonics conferences than any other country or international group. The Chinese have invested in a number of new and impressive hypersonic test facilities. And China has conducted more hypersonic flight tests recently, than the US.”

Boyd said it’s not clear when those countries will be able to deploy hypersonic weapons in any significant numbers, which is why the US and Russia have seized the opportunity to step up efforts.