Hypersonic weapons, capable of striking Russia and China at Mach 5 or higher, could be the Pentagon’s answer in correcting American hegemony that is widely perceived to be in terminal decline.
Army Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at a Defense Writers Group conference in Washington, D.C. Wednesday that hypersonic missiles and directed energy weapons are critical to the service’s top modernization plan, said the Military.com.
“Long-range precision fires at the strategic level is the capability that we need to ensure we have overmatch in future conflicts, and I think that the way to get to it is through hypersonics,” said Esper.
Esper said he has communicated with cross-functional organizations responsible for advancing new technologies to expedite the next generation of long-range precision-guided hypersonic missiles.
“I am pushing them to go as fast as they can, move to the left,” he said, adding that the other services are also working on the technology.
“The services have been working together. We signed a joint agreement, if you will, in terms on how to proceed. The secretary of the Navy and the secretary of the Air Force and I meet constantly on this and other issues where we can work together. We all recognize that that is a key capability for all of us,” he said.
Esper then told journalist new information about the hypersonic rollout that even we have not heard before. He specifically mentioned that 2028 is the year when the missiles will be deployed on the modern battlefield.
“This is one where, clearly, technology is an issue,” he said. “It’s not like there is one out there right now that I am aware of. … This is one that is going to take some technology development. We are pushing hard because we’ve got to get there first.”
The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command conducted the first flight of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) concept in November 2011 (Source/ Army/ Military.com)
In the last several months, the US Air Force has awarded nearly $1.5 billion to Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control to develop a hypersonic weapon prototype.
The contract will cover the critical design review, test, and production readiness support for the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), according to a US Air Force statement.
“We are going to go fast and leverage the best technology available to get hypersonic capability to the warfighter as soon as possible,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson.
Officials from the Defense Department, Missile Defense Agency, Air Force, Navy, and Army signed a memorandum June 28 to work jointly on the development of “hypersonic boost-glide” technology, the release said.
“The Joint Team requires the right mix of agile capabilities to compete, deter and win across the spectrum of competition and conflict,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “We must push the boundaries of technology and own the high ground in this era of great power competition and beyond.”
Esper also said the Army is accelerating efforts to develop directed-energy weapons for use in air and missile defense.
“I think what’s most exciting, and where the Army is making a good deal of progress, is on directed energy, and I think that is the future for the most part because of the volume and speed of shots that it gives you,” Esper said, we have “put a lot of our investments” toward powerful lasers guns designed to be mounted on tanks and fighter jets.
In July, the Army awarded Raytheon a $10 million High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstration (HEL TVD) contract for a mobile 100 kW laser weapon system. Raytheon said the 100 kW laser would be mounted on a Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles.
Our high-energy laser weapon system is designed to knock out rockets, artillery or mortar fire, and small drones. Read how we're supporting the Army's Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles here: https://t.co/NyNQWf9xnU pic.twitter.com/IJ1cyesSRA— Raytheon (@Raytheon) July 3, 2018
“We have some things now, and I want to get them out in testing as soon as possible. Within a few years, I want to get something out there,” Esper said. “Initial fielding is something else, but in terms of prototyping, seeing what it can do, I want to get it out sooner rather than later.”
Directed energy weapons are a challenge because they can travel a great distance, depending on their Kilowatt, “so you have safety concerns you have to work through,” he said. “But like everything else, I am pushing folks to move left. Let’s get it out to the field. Let’s let soldiers experiment with it and see how they can best use it. … They will help shape how we think about the importance of lasers in terms of actually firing them, but also how do we integrate them as part of our formation against everything from small drones to cruise missiles to fast movers.”
The importance of the year 2028 is symbolic for its peak in the 53.5-Year War Cycle. So, it now makes sense why the Army wants to have hypersonics and other advanced weapons fielded within the next decade. War looms and it is likely to be against Russia and China.