US Air Force New “Boost-Glide” Hypersonic
Weapons System coming soon. Pentagon testing a new series of hypersonic
weapons prototypes as part of a large-scale effort to fast-track the missile to service.
The U.S. acceleration of the weapons, which includes air flights, ground-firing, wind-tunnels,
simulation and various kinds of prototyping, an Air Force, DARPA and Raytheon hypersonic
weapons program called Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapons Concept, the program, manager Andrew
Knoedler, by Raytheon weapons developers, explains that “sustaining” speeds at 5
to 6-times the speed of sound is a technical characteristic to hypersonic weapons.
“We are flying a Hypersonic Weapons system ground tests have already happened. The whole
point is to simulate what you would experience in flight, so you can create the correct thermal
environment. Air-Breathing systems regularly use a scramjet
engine to generate thrust and propel the air vehicle across long distances to a target.
While engineered to reach previously unattainable levels of propulsion, scramjet engine technology
aligns with the technical configuration of existing high-power engine systems. This includes
taking in a high-speed airflow, compressing the air and then igniting it with gas or some
kind of propellant to generate thrust. Alongside air-breathing hypersonic weapons,
the Pentagon is also developing “boost-glide” weapons which achieve speed and range by “skipping
off the upper atmosphere,” Bussing said. They can be a winged glider or take on a canonical
shape, making them maneuverable and high-speed with a high “lift over drag ratio.”
Boost-glide hypersonic weapons, Bussing explained, “propel a glide vehicle to a point in space
where it has a certain altitude and a certain forward speed.” The speed of descent then
propels the weapon toward its target. Achieving hypersonic weapons effectiveness is not without
substantial challenges, according to Raytheon developers.
Air Force hypersonic weapons acceleration hinges upon a deliberate service acquisition
strategy intended to prototype, “bend metal” and test weapons earlier in the developmental
process; the concept, as articulated by Air Force Acquisition Executive Dr. William Roper,
seemed to anticipate or lay the foundation for what is now a very fast-moving US hypersonic
weapons testing and development process. “I am working with the team on acceleration
and I am very confident that a significant acceleration is possible,” Roper said.
Many Hypersonic weapons are engineered as “kinetic energy” strike weapons, meaning
they will not use explosives but rather rely upon sheer speed and the force of impact to
destroy targets. This Hypersonic weapons acceleration is taking
place within a high-threat global environment. Both Russia and China have been visibly conducting
Hypersonic weapons tests, leading some to raise the question as to whether the US could
be behind key rivals in this area. A Popular Mechanics report from earlier this
year cites Chinese State Media as having announced a successful test of a new “wave-rider”
Hypersonic vehicle. “The Hypersonic vehicle that detached from the booster rocket flew
for 400 seconds, achieving a maximum speed of Mach 6 and reaching an altitude of 100,000
feet,” the report says. Regarding the Russians, Bussing referred to
Putin’s claim that Russia has hypersonic weapons that are able to fly from a fighter
jet. MiG-31 Foxhound, lofting a four-ton hypersonic Kinzhal.
The Pentagon’s 2020 budget, released earlier this year, proposes a hypersonic weapons increase,
citing the request this way – “Hypersonics weapons development to complicate adversaries’
detection and defense – $2.6 billion,” Defense budget.
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