The Department of Defense announced on June 9th that the accelerated development of hypersonic missiles is key to its modernization efforts. The $6.6 billion endeavor is planning weapons with nuclear warhead capability that can launch from land, sea or air, and travel at speeds beyond five times the speed of sound.
This proposal, announced as part of President Joe Biden’s FY2022 budget, is being declared a “milestone” decision that will transition research-and-development programs into weapons procurement.
According to Mike White, hypersonics director in the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering office, each military branch, as well as the Missile Defense Agency and U.S. allies, are involved in developing these weapons, though roles and duties in leadership would be defined throughout the process.
“The budget request is a very important statement on the importance of hypersonics,” he said at a talk hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The ’22 budget budgets to buy those systems once they’re developed in numbers moving out so we are really accelerating the fielding of capability.”
In addition to their unprecedented speed, hypersonic weapons can evade traditional missile defense systems. Of the two primary types of offensive hypersonic weapon systems – boost-glide and air-breathing – White says that the Air Force’s AGM-183A Advanced Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, is under development by Lockheed Martin to be the first offensive system to move into the procurement stage. At present, the DoD is prioritizing the development of air-launched cruise missiles.
White said that Congress and the White House have been supportive of the development effort.
“As you understand that landscape, you really understand how real this is and how important it is — a national imperative in my mind — that we move forward and deliver to our warfighters this capability.”