Army and Navy Team Up on Hypersonic Weapons
They hope to reduce costs and speed development by developing hypersonic weapons together.
The U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army recently concluded a jointly run hypersonic weapons test which they termed a “High Operational Tempo for Hypersonics flight campaign,” and the second of such tests, according to a recent U.S. Navy statement.
The testing will be used to, “inform the development of the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) and the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) offensive hypersonic strike capability,” the U.S. Navy statement explained. It added that the “CPS and AHPO programs are on track to support the first fielding of a hypersonic capability to the Army in FY 2023. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) took part in the campaign to gather data for its work developing systems that will defend against hypersonic weapons.”
The Navy also explained what is behind weapon system development. “Precision sounding rocket launches fill a critical gap between ground testing and full system flight testing. These launches allow for frequent and regular flight testing opportunities to support rapid maturation of offensive and defensive hypersonic technologies.”
“The data collected from the latest sounding rocket campaign will drive warfighting capability improvements for both Navy and Army to ensure continued battlefield dominance.”
Developing hypersonic weapons—missiles that travel over Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound—is an extremely high-priority project for the United States Department of Defense.
Some within America’s national security establishment have rung alarm bells at what they see as the United States losing its technological edge against other adversaries, particularly Russia and China and their hypersonic weapon programs.
Though Russia has used hypersonic weapons in the conflict in Ukraine, those weapons did not significantly affect the war, Europe’s most significant in eight decades. That does not mean the weapons are without merit, however—merely that the particularities of the war in Ukraine did not play to Russia’s strengths.
Though the United States hypersonic missile program is not brand new, it is in its infancy. Still, the U.S. Navy explained that this latest test was “a vital step in the development of a Navy-designed common hypersonic missile, consisting of a Common Hypersonic Glide Body (CHGB) and booster, which will be fielded by both the Navy and Army with individual weapon systems and launchers tailored for launch from sea or land. The Navy and Army will continue to work in close collaboration to leverage joint testing opportunities.”
The statement concluded emphatically, explaining that the Department of Defense is working with “industry, government national laboratories, and academia" to get a hypersonic weapon into service in the "early-to-mid-2020s.”
The United States will soon have a viable hypersonic weapon capability.
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson