Catch up with Russia and China: the United States got involved in a hypersonic arms race

Catch up with Russia and China: the United States got involved in a hypersonic arms race
Catch up with Russia and China: the United States got involved in a hypersonic arms race
24 January, 09:56ArmyPhoto: Sandbox
The United States of America is making an unprecedented effort to quickly acquire hypersonic weapons and catch up with Russia and China.

Efforts are being made in the widest possible range, and it seems that there are no plans to spare money. Washington is ready to allocate $ 28.5 billion for hypersonic weapons programs.

Alexander Sychev

Two delivery methods - glider and rockets

Work is underway on two types of these weapons: hypersonic gliders and hypersonic cruise missiles.

Hypersonic glide paths (HGAs) are not very different from long-range ballistic missile (ICBM) warheads, at least in the early stages of their flight. Like ICBMs, launch vehicles deliver them to the upper layers of the atmosphere, where one or more glide path vehicles are released from the fairing. The rocket carrier did its job, giving them the necessary acceleration, and then the vehicles descend to the target at high speed, taxiing, depending on their type, with the available planes either in the vertical plane or also in the horizontal plane.

Since hypersonic missiles with an active slip site have a number of features in common with ballistic missiles, they are usually lifted into the upper atmosphere by conventional ICBMs. The danger of this launch method is that there is no way to accurately tell the difference between a nuclear and a conventional payload on a launching ICBM. Therefore, the launch of hypersonic vehicles using a ballistic missile will cause a nuclear response, regardless of the nature of the warhead. And this is the end of the world.

Another method is applied in the case of cruise missiles. To accelerate them to hypersonic speeds, special propulsion systems are used. In the USA they are called scramjet - supersonic jet engine. It starts to work only at high speeds. Therefore, these missiles are launched from fast moving aircraft or use an additional engine to achieve speeds above Mach 3.

When the hypersonic engine is fired, the cruise missile flies almost like a traditional cruise missile - aiming at the target, maneuvering. But this is how it looks, so to speak, in the first approximation. In practice, the physics of their work is much more complicated - huge speeds, surface heating temperatures, colossal overloads and many other factors.

The US currently has several publicly disclosed hypersonic missile programs. It cannot be ruled out that there are many more. They are all labeled "Top Secret". But in 2020, one of them - the US Army's Vintage Racer program - was unintentionally exposed. From this fact, it can be assumed that there are other, more successful programs still remaining in the shadows.

The US Navy is waiting for a sea-launched missile

The US Navy called one of its sea-launched hypersonic missile programs the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS).

It is a hypersonic glider that is launched by a ballistic missile from ships and submarines. Last year, sailors tested the first and second solid-fuel booster stages, which will accelerate the gliding unit, called the Common Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB), to speeds in excess of Mach 5. This gliding unit is said to carry a conventional warhead.

The deployment of these weapons on US ships and submarines is expected in 2025-2028.

The Navy is also developing Offensive Anti-Ship Weapons (OASuW), labeled Increment 2. Very little is known about this system.

The program is also called Screaming Arrow. It is a hypersonic, long-range, atmospherically propelled cruise missile. It is planned to arm the F / A-18E / F Super Hornet and F-35C carrier-based fighters with it.

The ammunition should be light and compact enough, so, as conceived by the Navy command, four missiles of this type should be placed on the fighter. Among other requirements is the possibility of landing a combat aircraft on the deck of an aircraft carrier with unused hypersonic missiles.

This work was a continuation of the Increment 1 program, which created the AGM-158C long-range subsonic anti-ship missile.

Screaming Arrow Estimated Deployment Time Unknown

US Army counts on long-range hypersonic missiles

The US Army is also building its own weapon, the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), also known as the Dark Eagle.

Launch a planning unit, which is being created jointly in the Navy, from ground mobile complexes. Each installation accommodates two transport and launch containers. The flight range of the planning unit will be almost 2800 kilometers, and the maximum speed will be more than 6 thousand kilometers per hour.

Installations are planned to be located, in particular, in Germany. This will reduce the flight time to Russia to 15-20 minutes.

Last fall, the US Army's 17th Field Artillery Brigade received training samples and the first prototype LRHW battery.

But this is not yet a combat deployment. Development continues.

The US Air Force is conducting three projects in the field of hypersonics

The US Air Force is perhaps the richest customer in the field of hypersonic weapons. Already today, at least three projects are known that are being carried out in the interests of military aviation.

One of them is the ARRW (Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon) AGM-183А hypersonic air-launched missile. It works according to the following scheme - the carrier aircraft sets the initial speed necessary to start the glider's rocket engine, which accelerates it to crazy speeds. The American press reported that the AGM-183A could accelerate to Mach 20 and even more, and the flight range would be about 900 kilometers.

The Air Force conducted three ARRW tests last year and all were unsuccessful. The last time, in December, the prototype AGM-183A missile did not separate from the B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber.

The proposed deployment of the system is scheduled for this and next years.

The US Air Force is working on a system called the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM). This machine is the slowest of all planned hypersonic missiles. She has a different task - to fly low and for short distances, but actively maneuvering to avoid interception. During the maneuvering phase, which begins after the completion of the rocket boost phase, the HACM will use jet propulsion.

The prototype should appear by 2026.

Almost nothing is known about the Mayhem project, which is currently being developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory. Only a few leaks suggest that it will be a hypersonic cruise missile using a variable cycle engine. It will be able to fly at subsonic and supersonic speeds with a traditional jet engine running, and when entering strike positions, turn on a rocket booster that will accelerate it to hypersonic.


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on several projects. Two are currently known.

The first is Operational Fires (OpFires). Judging by the name, the system will be operational, tactical in nature. This is a medium-range missile (up to 5.5 thousand kilometers) with a conventional warhead, which will be launched from C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes.

Transporters with hypersonic weapons are supposed to be placed at the bases, and in case of a threat, they will be lifted into the air. There they will fly and wait for the order to strike at the target.

The rocket for transport workers was created by Raytheon. It was tested last September and was reported to be successful. After being dropped from the plane, she reached a speed of 6200 kilometers per hour.

The troops may receive it next year.

The second missile is known as the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC, Hypersonic Atmospheric Weapon Concept). It is a hypersonic air-to-air missile using a jet engine developed by Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. It will fly at speeds above Mach 5. At the initial stage of the flight, it will be accelerated by rocket boosters, and then the scramjet will turn on. The expected range and maximum speed of HAWC have not yet been disclosed.

US international cooperation in the field of hypersonics

With about a dozen of its own programs, Washington is also trying to take advantage of the scientific and technological potential of other countries. Recently, the United States signed an agreement with Japan on cooperation in the development of hypersonic missiles.

In Washington, with great respect, and quite justifiably, are the scientific thought of the Japanese and their obligation. In addition, the Japanese already have some developments. They have been conducting research for several years in various areas related to hypersonic weapons, although they did this mainly in the interests of other areas, such as satellite navigation and solid-fuel rockets. However, China's acquisition of its own hypersonic weapons and North Korea's testing have prompted Tokyo to address the purely military aspect of the issue as well.

On the website of the Agency for Procurement, Technology and Logistics, the Japanese government recently announced that it intends to acquire two classes of hypersonic systems - cruise missiles and gliding warheads. Prototypes should appear between 2024 and 2028, and hypersonics will be put into service in the early 2030s.

The United States also entered into a similar agreement with Australia, which is developing its own hypersonic weapons. True, recently in Canberra they started talking about reorienting the project to the creation of a passenger hypersonic aircraft. Like, it's more interesting in terms of financial returns. Nevertheless, there are developments, and they are of great interest to the United States.

The joint program provides for work on the creation of hypersonic cruise missiles with a solid-propellant atmospheric rocket booster. The Americans plan to equip carrier-based fighters, as well as the P-8A Poseidon naval reconnaissance aircraft, with them.

The first flight of the joint prototype is expected in 2024.

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