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    US Seeks Hypersonic Weapons as China Zooms Ahead

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    The US is facing an emerging threat in the form of hypersonic weapons, leading to calls for the US to develop its own defensive and offensive hypersonic capabilities.

    "China's hypersonic weapons development outpaces ours," Admiral Harry Harris, head of US Pacific Command, told Congress on Wednesday.

    "We're falling behind," Harris said, echoing US Air Force General Paul Selva's recent comments that the US has "lost our technical advantage in hypersonics" to Beijing and Moscow, whose programs have accelerated forward at mach speed.

    The military needs to address the growing disparity "in a most aggressive way," according to Harris, "in order to ensure that we have the capabilities to both defend against China's hypersonic weapons and develop our own offensive hypersonic weapons."

    Hypersonic weapons can travel at extremely high speeds — upwards of five times the speed of sound, or nearly twice the speed of any existent military aircraft — and thus evade missile defense systems. Either conventional weapons or nuclear weapons could theoretically be attached to a hypersonic missile, both horrifying prospects, but the raw kinetic energy of the projectile moving so fast is sufficient to wreak great destruction all on its own simply by hitting the target.

    US Air Force officials have said that, depending on a hypersonic weapon's guidance system, such a weapon could destroy enemy naval vessels, buildings, air defense systems, drones or aircraft.

    Warrior Maven reported on Wednesday that the US Missile Defense Agency would be pursuing more advanced sensors to monitor incoming threats. The new software the agency seeks "might have some capability to track hypersonic systems," MDA Director of Operations Gary Pennett told reporters, adding, "this evolving threat demands a globally present and persistent space sensor network to track it from birth to death."

    In 2017, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov said developing and supplying hypersonic weapons to the Russian Armed Forces was one of the highest-priority programs in the 2018 to 2025 armaments review.

    China has been cruising along with its own hypersonic program. The People's Liberation Army conducted two hypersonic glide vehicle tests last November, US intelligence officials said in a report shared with the Diplomat.

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    Tags:
    hypersonic, US Missile Defense Agency (MDA), US Air Force, China, Russia, United States
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