Does the U.S. Army really need to develop hypersonic missiles?
One expert has – gasp – dared to suggest that the Army shouldn’t jump on the hypersonic bandwagon.
“It is difficult to discern what operational problem the Army has that a hypersonic missile will help solve,” writes Thomas Spoehr in a Heritage Foundation study on Army modernization. “Yet the Army reportedly plans to spend $1.2 billion on a hypersonic missile over the next five years.”
Spoehr, a retired Army lieutenant general who heads the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation, warns against the frenzy for superweapons.
“Washington, D.C., is awash today in predictions that combinations of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics (especially swarms), hypersonic weapons, railguns, and directed-energy weapons will fundamentally change warfare,” Spoehr writes. “Less plentiful are the operational concepts that describe how these systems will be used. Great significance is ascribed to the amounts of money that China and Russia are investing in advanced technologies such as hypersonic missiles and AI, while opinion pieces warn daily that the U.S. must ‘win’ the hypersonic missile race.”
But “the hypersonic missile ‘race’ need only be ‘won’ if, indeed, a hypersonic missile fills a necessary capability gap for the joint force,” he points out.
The U.S. is frantically moving to catch up with Russia and China in hypersonic weapons, which travel faster than Mach 5. Russia in particular has deployed an array of hypersonic missiles, including the Mach 10 air-launched Khinzal ballistic missile and the sea-launched Zircon anti-ship missile, and the Mach 27 Avangard, a nuclear-armed glider boosted high into the atmosphere atop an ICBM.