Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias reports that the United States military will be using hypersonic weapons systems sometime in the next decade. In a recent interview with sports blog and military watchdog site Scout.com, Zacharias stated the the U.S. armed forces will be deploying long-range hypersonic weapons which travel five times the speed of sound by the 2020s. By the 2030s, the Air Force could be flying hypersonic reconnaissance drones capable of deploying hypersonic weapons systems.
These weapons will be much more difficult to be detected by current radar and satellite reconnaissance networks that inform anti-aircraft defense systems. According to the Air Force’s nerd-in-chief, these weapons will change the future battlefield landscape due to their speed and range:
Air speed makes them much more survivable and hard to shoot down. If you can put enough fuel in them that gets them a good long range. You are going roughly a mile a second so if you put in 1,000 seconds of fuel you can go 1,000 miles - so that gives you lots of standoff capability.
Zacharias reported that these weapons are already in development, with final testing needed only on guidance systems and support networks such as parts engineering and supply chain infrastructure. These weapons even have the potential to be deployed from space and used in satellite warfare.
The two largest world superpowers other than the U.S. - China and Russia - have likewise been developing and testing hypersonic weapons. In April 2016, China watchdog group The Jameson Foundation reported that the Chinese military has already tested hypersonic weaponry capable of bypassing most known missile defense systems.
Russia, likewise, has developed a hypersonic glider system that can deploy ballistic missiles while flying at speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10, or five to ten times the speed of sound. This project, known as Project 4042, is giving NATO the jitters over fears that Russia is flexing its military muscles ahead of further seizures of Eastern European territory.
These weapon systems have the potential forever change the face of war. Over the last few centuries, technological developments have made warfare far less personal and able to be fought remotely. Rather than having to physically insert a sword into a combatant’s body as in wars of the past, soldiers of tomorrow could fight battles by pushing buttons while on opposite ends of the Earth.
These new hypersonic weapons will allow munitions to be fired from incredibly long ranges and reach their targets in seconds. As a result, wars and battles which previously took weeks or years could be determined in a matter of minutes.