US military successfully tested hypersonic missiles last month but kept the project a secret

The United States military tested a hypersonic missile last month but decided to keep it quiet for two weeks in order to avoid ramping up tensions further with Russia. Above, Master Sgt. John Malloy and Staff Sgt. Jacob Puente secure a hypersonic missile to the wing of a bomber jet
The hypersonic missiles in development are made to be dropped from a B52-H, pictured above
The missiles, which are launched from a bomber jet and accelerated by a booster before detaching, are able to be guided to a precise target. Above, a rendering of a missile
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) stated how the test met all of its objectives including the missile’s integration and release reaching speeds greater than Mach 5

The missile flew at heights greater than 65,000 feet for 300 miles – which would have taken around five minutes -though officials provided few details about the flight.  

DARPA said the test met all of its objectives, including the missile’s integration and release, safe separation from the launch aircraft, booster firing, and cruise.

The test came at a time when tensions between Russia and U.S. are heightened due to the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, and just days after Russia used its own hypersonic missiles on an ammunition warehouse in western Ukraine. 

US officials recently downplayed the Russia’s use of their own hypersonic Kinzhal missile which is essentially an air-launched version of a Russian Iskander short-range ballistic missile and not new hypersonic weaponry.

Pictured: The moment the Kizhal hypersonic missile destroyed the ammunition depot in western Ukraine, according to Russian Ministry of Defence

The US test involved the use of a powerful engine, called an air-breathing scramjet.

The HAWC missile does not contain a warhead – but relies instead on sheer kinetic energy to destroy targets.

The US has been looking at hypersonic weapons with renewed emphasis after successful tests were conducted by China and Russia, furthering concerns that the US is lagging in developing latest military technology.

China is thought to have successfully tested a hypersonic glide vehicle over the summer, while Russia has tested its submarine-launched hypersonic missile, known as the Tsirkon. 

Hypersonic missiles are dropped from bomber jets and can travel up to 15 times faster than the speed of sound. They can also be steered in-flight toward a target, making them more precise and harder to shoot down.

The development of hypersonic missiles has led to an arms race between the US, China and Russia. 

Last year, General David Thompson, the US Space Force’s vice-chief of space operations, stated that the US was ‘not as advanced’ as China or Russia in hypersonic weapons.

He said: ‘We have catching up to do very quickly. The Chinese have had an incredibly aggressive hypersonic program for several years.’  

China’s testing of a 25,000mph hypersonic nuclear-capable missile has indicated that Beijing’s missile programme is more advanced than previously thought, amid an intensifying race for the next generation of long-rang weapons that are harder to detect and intercept

The US has been careful throughout the Ukraine conflict to avoid taking steps that might further escalate tensions between Russia and the US, including opposing the introduction of a no-fly zone above the country and disallowing the Polish Air Force to allow its fighter jets to be flown by Ukrainians. 

The US has also opposed the transfer of fighter aircraft to Ukraine through the United States, concerned that the Kremlin could interpret such a move as the US and NATO entering the conflict in Ukraine.

The details of this hypersonic test were kept under wraps for two weeks in the hopes of avoiding any kind further provocation of Russian President Vladimir Putin as his troops continue to blast Ukraine. 

Pictured: A video screen grab showing a test of the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, dubbed ‘an ideal weapon’ by Vladimir Putin (file photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has termed the missile ‘an ideal weapon’ that flies at 10 times the speed of sound and can overcome air-defence systems. Pictured: Putin speaks during a rally on Friday to mark the eighth anniversary of ‘annexing’ Crimea, and spoke of ‘de-Nazifying’ the peninsula and of debunked claims of ‘genocide’ in the Donbass

Russia, meanwhile, used its Kinzhal hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine last month, destroying a weapons storage site.

Russia has never before admitted using the high-precision weapon in combat, and state news agency RIA Novosti said it was the first use of the Kinzhal hypersonic weapons during the conflict in pro-Western Ukraine.

Moscow claims the ‘Kinzhal’- or Dagger – is ‘unstoppable’ by current Western weapons. The missile, which has a range of 1,250 miles, is nuclear capable. 

‘The Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Deliatyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region’, the Russian defence ministry said Saturday. 

Russian Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov also said that the Russian forces used the anti-ship missile system Bastion to strike Ukrainian military facilities near the Black Sea port of Odesa.

Aerial footage released by the Russian military claimed to show the missile strike. Large, long buildings are shown in the footage in a snowy region, before one is obliterated by a huge explosion – sending flames, earth and debris high into the air. People can be seen on the ground fleeing as smoke pours from the site.

Russia reportedly first used the weapon during its military campaign in Syria in 2016 to support the Assad regime, although it was unclear if this was the same model. Some of the most intense bombing came in 2016 during the battle for Aleppo, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has termed the missile ‘an ideal weapon’ that flies at 10 times the speed of sound and can overcome air-defense systems.

Darpa, the US army’s scientific wing, recently announced successful tests of what it called a HAWC missile (Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept)

UNITED STATES

The US military has a number of hypersonic weapons programs across the Navy, Army and Air Force but most are still in development phase and highly top secret. 

However the known programs are all more conventional hypersonic weapons that strike from high altitude, rather than orbital bombardment systems that strike from space which the Chinese were revealed to have developed tis week. 

The only US hypersonic weapon know to have been successfully tested is the Air Force’s GM-183 ARRW which is designed to be launched from a large bomber aircraft. 

It then accelerates to hypersonic speeds using of up to 15,345mph using a supersonic combustion ramjet to strike targets within 1,000 miles. Donald Trump refered to a ‘super duper missile’ while in office and this is believed to be the AGM-183 ARRW.

The Navy’s submarine launched Long Range Hypersonic Weapon is expected to be operational by 2023 and will have a range of 1,725 miles.  

Darpa, the US army’s scientific wing, recently announced successful tests of what it called a HAWC missile (Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept) but kept details such as range, speed and payload secret. 

The missile uses oxygen in the atmosphere as part of its fuel – marking the first successful test of that class of weapon since 2013.

The missile, which is built by Raytheon, was released from an aircraft just ‘seconds’ before the scramjet engine from Northrop Grumman kicked on, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said. 

The engine works by compressing incoming air with hydrocarbon fuel to create a fast airflow mixture, one capable of reaching over 1,700 meters per second, or five times the speed of sound. 

Earlier this year, a test of a hypersonic missile from the U.S. Air Force was abandoned after it was unable to complete its launch sequence.  

On March 19 last year, the Pentagon flight-tested a hypersonic glide vehicle at its Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. It deemed the test a success and ‘a major milestone towards the department’s goal of fielding hypersonic warfighting capabilities in the early- to mid-2020s.’

Unlike Russia, the United States says it is not developing hypersonic weapons for use with a nuclear warhead. As a result, a U.S. hypersonic weapon will need to be more accurate, posing additional technical challenges.

In 2004, NASA’s experimental unmanned hypersonic aircraft X-43 reached 7,366mph (Mach 9.6) using a scramjet engine, setting the current record.

In 2019, DailyMail.com reported that the Raytheon and Northrop Grumman-developed missile would use an engine made by a 3D printer. 

Last year, DARPA said it was working with Aerojet Rocketdyne on a nearly $20 million project to develop a hypersonic rocket that could intercept enemy missiles mid-air. 

Russia recently launched a hypersonic missile, the Zircon, from a submarine and has the hypersonic nuclear-capable Avangard missiles 

RUSSIA  

Russia recently launched a hypersonic missile, the Zircon, from a submarine, and since late 2019 has had the hypersonic nuclear-capable Avangard missiles in service. The Avangard can travel at up to Mach 27, changing course and altitude.  

The range of Russia’s hypersonic missile, the Zircon, is 621 miles with a speed of 9,800mph.

But the missile flies below the atmosphere and uses fuel to power itself to hypersonic speeds rather than the Earth’s orbit. 

Earlier this month, Russia  announced it has successfully test-fired the Zircon from a nuclear submarine for the first time. 

The 6,670mph weapon hit a target in the Barents Sea according to the Moscow defence ministry, who claims the missile is capable of Mach-9 speeds and able to evade all Western defences. 

Russia said it had completed flight tests of the new-age missile from a frigate – the Admiral Gorshkov – and a coastal mount, but it had not previously been launched from a submarine.

The Zircon has been identified by Moscow’s state-controlled TV as Vladimir Putin’s weapon of choice to wipe out coastal American cities in the event of an atomic conflict.

He has declared the missile as ‘truly unparalleled anywhere in the world’, and the Russians have boasted it is ‘unstoppable’ by Western defences.

Putin first announced the development of an array of new hypersonic weapons in 2018, insisting that they would be able to hit almost any point in the world and evade a US-built missile shield. 

The Zircon is due to go into service next year, and will first be deployed via the Admiral Golovko frigate which carries significant stealth-technology. 

A key use of the missile is taking out enemy ships and reports suggested its maximum range is between 188 and 620 miles.

But there have been unconfirmed reports its true range is some 1,200 miles.

The missile system’s design and development have been conducted in deep secrecy, and Putin has warned that foreign spies have tried to steal its secrets.

It is one of a number of hypersonic missiles Russia is deploying including the 188-tonne Sarmat – known in the West as Satan-2 – which will be the biggest beast in Russia’s nuclear arsenal, due for tests in the autumn with deployment slated for next year.

In May, Russia said it tested three ‘invincible’ hypersonic ‘Satan 2’ missiles that some have said could wipe out areas the size of England and Wales. 

China launched the dummy weapon into space on board a Long March 2C rocket (pictured) during a test in mid-August which it did not disclose at the time and was only revealed at the weekend by security analysts assigned to work out its purpose

CHINA 

The hypersonic orbital bombardment system that China tested in August reportedly reaches a top speed of 21,000 mph and strikes from space.  

The core concept of China’s ‘new’ weapon – deliver a warhead into orbit and have it circle the globe before hitting a target – was first developed by the Soviets in the 1960s. 

Called a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System, or FOBS, it was developed to evade powerful US radar arrays and missile defence systems.

Those systems work by detecting launches of ICBMs – very long-range missiles that can be tipped with nukes – and tracking them into space, then firing at the warheads as they come down in the hope of blowing them up before they hit their targets.

This is possible because ICBMs and their warheads follow a predictable trajectory that rises high into space – making them relatively easy to spot and allowing defence crews to calculate where they are aimed so they can be shot out of the sky. 

FOBS aim to negate these defences by firing their warheads along a much-flatter trajectory – assisted by Earth’s gravity. 

This means they pass under the scope of many radar detection arrays and are harder to track. It also makes the warheads much harder to shoot down because their trajectory is harder to calculate.  

The use of orbit makes a warhead’s range potentially unlimited, meaning it can be fired at its target from any direction. This helps to avoid radar systems which generally point at a fixed spot in the sky – in America’s case, over the North Pole.

Meanwhile, China  has also unveiled a hypersonic medium-range missile, the DF-17, in 2019, which can travel around 2,000 kilometres and can carry nuclear warheads.

In October, China deployed the DF 17 missile to coastal areas in preparation for a possible invasion of Taiwan.  

The weapon has a maximum range of 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) and is capable of achieving speeds of up to 7,680 miles per hour (12,360 kph) – or 10 times the speed of sound – while carrying a nuclear warhead, according to previous reports.

It has been billed as ‘a death sentence’ to aircraft carriers within its range.

Hypersonic missiles travel at more than five times the speed of sound in the upper atmosphere – or about 6,200 km per hour (3,850 mph). This is slower than an intercontinental ballistic missile, but the shape of a hypersonic glide vehicle allows it to manoeuvre toward a target or away from defences.

Combining a glide vehicle with a missile that can launch it partially into orbit – a so-called fractional orbital bombardment system (FOBS) – could strip adversaries of reaction time and traditional defences mechanisms.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), by contrast, carry nuclear warheads on ballistic trajectories that travel into space but never reach orbit. 

China on Monday insisted that the test in August was a routine one for a spacecraft rather than a missile.

Daily Mail

We know that if our earthly house, this tent, were to be destroyed, we have an eternal building of God in the heavens, a house not made with hands. In this one we groan, earnestly desiring to be sheltered with our house which is from heaven. Thus being sheltered, we shall not be found unsheltered. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we wish to be unclothed, but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal might be swallowed up by life. Now He who has created us for this very thing is God, who also has given to us the guarantee of the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 5:1-5 Modern English Version)

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