Hypersonic weapon development is among the highest priorities of global superpowers as a great-power competition rages between the US and China.
China is rapidly developing hypersonic weapon systems and has fielded some of these superfast weapons to its southeast coast and or militarized islands in the South China Sea – challenging the US’ air dominance in the Indo-Pacific region.
The problem is that for decades the US has been lightyears ahead of other countries in developing and fielding anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles but, for some reason, is having difficulty fielding hypersonic weapons.
On Monday, at the annual Air Force Association Air, Space & Cyber conference, USAF Secretary Frank Kendall told reporters that he is reassessing the USAF’s hypersonic program, according to Breaking Defense. “I’m not satisfied with the pace,” he said. “We’re making some progress on the technology; I would like to see it be better.”
Kendall said he is “not satisfied with the degree to which we have figured out what we need for hypersonics — of what type, for what missions.”
“The target set that we would want to address, and why hypersonics are the most cost-effective weapons for the US, I think it’s still, to me, somewhat of a question mark,” he said. “I haven’t seen all the analysis that’s been done to justify the current program.”
Gen. Arnold Bunch, the head of Air Force Materiel Command, told reporters on Tuesday that “there are certain aspects, attributes that [have] not performed the way we need to,” while acknowledging the hypersonic program has hit obstacles.
“We are going to have to continue to put our focus there, and we will continue to take what are called educated risks as we move forward so that we can get a capability out in the field as quickly as possible,” Bunch said.
While China and Russia have fielded hypersonic weapons, the US has not and recently experienced a failed air-launch test of a missile that can travel at Mach 5, or about 3,836 mph.
In terms of funding, the push for hypersonic weapon development occurred under the Trump administration and has continued under Biden.
America is trying to reassert its air dominance worldwide, but it’s having trouble developing hypersonic weapons as other superpowers soar ahead.