Earlier this week Russian defense industry officials revealed plans to deploy a revolutionary hypersonic maneuvering strike missile by 2020 leaving Washington scrambling to come up with a new missile defense shield capable of shooting down the elite weapon.
Lockheed Martin missile defense experts believe that the Pentagon is exploring ways to shoot down the maneuvering hypersonic missiles with options including a modified extended-range version of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, called THAAD-ER, as well as high-powered lasers capable of shooting down missiles before they reach hypersonic speeds.
Last week, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began the bidding discovery process for a system capable of intercepting hundreds of small drone-like systems as well as conventional missile systems that led defense industry analysts to wonder whether the US military was looking for a sophisticated multi-level laser system not only to tackle the proliferation of small drones but also potentially to counter Russia’s hypersonic weapons renaissance.
The United States is also said to be developing hypersonic missiles and space vehicles as well, but defense industry insiders say that these efforts to counter Russia’s growing military superiority may never get off the ground due to a lack of program funding.
"Comparable US programs are being funded at low levels and may never actually be deployed," said former Pentagon strategic policymaker Mark Schneider who added that unlike Russia’s hypersonic missiles, US systems "will certainly not be nuclear capable under current policy."
Boris Obnosov, director of the state-run Tactical Missiles Corporation has high hopes for Russia’s next-generation hypersonic weaponry saying "It’s obvious that with such speeds – when missiles will be capable of flying through the atmosphere at speeds of seven to 12 times the speed of sound, all [air] defense systems will be weakened considerably."
US Navy Admiral Cecil Haney, commander of US Strategic Command, agrees with Obnosov’s assessment warning last week that "Hyper-glide vehicle technology can complicate our sensing and our defensive approaches."
Obnosov believes that the development of the hypersonic weapons industry in Russia will not only serve to advance the Kremlin’s military imperative, but may become the backbone of the country’s economy.
"The development of hypersonic technology can be a catalyst for development of the entire industry, the entire national economy as they used to say," said Obnosov comparing the development of hypersonics to the launching of the first satellite – Sputnik I.