DARPA successfully demonstrated a hypersonic missile last week.
The missile fell briefly after being launched from a plane, but then its strong engine accelerated it to Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.
Hypersonic vehicles travel at speeds more than Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.
This missile just sped past that mark, and comparable designs are likely to do the same or even quicker.
The Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept is the name of the missile (HAWC),
Between slower cruise missiles and considerably faster ballistic missiles, is a kind of middle child.
“The HAWC vehicle performs best in an oxygen-rich environment, where its speed and dexterity make it difficult to detect on time,” according to a press statement from DARPA.
“It possesses far more kinetic energy than subsonic missiles and could strike targets much faster than subsonic missiles.”
The HAWC is driven by a “scramjet,” or “supersonic combustion ramjet,” which compresses incoming air, mixes it with hydrocarbon fuel, and then ignites the mixture.
Without a warhead, a hypersonic missile like the HAWC may hit a target.
Because the simple calculation of force times mass is sufficient to cause the same amount of damage as a slower explosive-filled warhead,
Understanding the HAWC in particular, as well as hypersonic weapons in general, is essential.
entails comprehending the differences between existing cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and novel hypersonic weapons, as well as their various applications. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s going on.
BALLISTIC MISSILES AND TRADITIONAL CRUISE MISSILES
The top speed of a Tomahawk cruise missile, which is extensively deployed in the United States, is 550 mph.
The speed of sound, or Mach 1, is approximately 761 miles per hour (it will change based on temperature, though).
Meanwhile, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which are rockets designed to carry nuclear bombs from one continent to a target on another, are extremely fast, even by hypersonic standards.
The United States’ Minuteman ICBMs achieve a mind-boggling Mach 23.
These missiles may be differentiated not only by their speed but also by their trajectory.
Cruise missiles fly low, below the radar’s detection range. ICBMs are launched into space and then curved back to Earth.
Countries have developed a variety of countermeasures to both of these types of missiles because they are well-known technologies.
Countermeasures for missiles are difficult to develop and implement, albeit they are difficult in various ways for cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
Cruise missiles maneuver in flight and fly low, avoiding radar detection, but they can be shot down by fighter jets or anti-air missiles if they are seen.
Subsonic cruise missiles, such as the Tomahawk, and supersonic cruise missiles, such as France’s Air-Sol Moyenne Portée, are also available.
ICBMs, on the other hand, travel quickly but in a scream-loud pattern around which countries.
The United States, Russia, and China, for example, have spent more than a century developing and testing detection techniques.
When a country detects a ballistic missile launch directed towards it, it may respond with a missile launch of its own.
The principle of nuclear deterrence is based on this threat. The US has also made investments in missile defense programs.
Though the programs have delivered inconsistent success in decades of testing, they promise to intercept approaching ICBMs with interceptors.
WEAPONS WITH HYPERSONIC PROPERTIES
Countries including Russia, the United States, China, and, as of September 29, North Korea, have all tested hypersonic weapons in this atmosphere.
The term “hypersonic weaponry” is a misnomer because it refers to two separate types of missiles that have the same high speed but differ in how they fly and the paths they follow.
VEHICLES WITH HYPERSONIC GLIDE
A rocket propels hypersonic glide vehicles to the edge of the atmosphere, where they dip back down and glide back to Earth at high speeds.
These can maneuver a little in flight, but only as gliders, with no independent thrust.
A glide vehicle is North Korea’s hypersonic weapon.
Hypersonic glide missiles (like the one North Korea just tested) have a precise trajectory that can be used to get over a country’s ballistic missile defenses.
ICBMs can also use chaff and decoys to get by missile defenses.
Additionally, several warheads that split apart in flight are used, guaranteeing that some harm is always delivered.
HYPERSONIC CRUISE MISSILES
On the other hand, are powered by onboard engines, are released from flighting planes, and move the whole time they are in flight.
The HAWC that DARPA just tested, as well as several Russian initiatives, fall within this category.
A hypersonic cruise missile has the same range as a cruise missile but takes less time to detect.
This makes scrambling jets to shoot it down or using current anti-air weapons to stop it from reaching its objective more difficult.
Because the HAWC’s kinetic energy is so high, the force it produces when it hits most targets is often enough to cause the same amount of damage as a conventional warhead.
HYPERSONICS RISKS AND CONSEQUENCES
What’s more difficult for policymakers and military planners is determining what payload a missile carries until it reaches its target.
Countries who believe the new hypersonic missile launched by DARPA poses a danger to their ability to respond with nuclear or conventional attacks may be more motivated to respond with a launch of their own.
“Some have identified two factors that could have significant implications for strategic stability: the weapon’s short time-of-flight—which compresses the timeline for response—and its unpredictable flight path—which could generate uncertainty about the weapon’s intended target and thus heighten the risk of miscalculation or unintended escalation in the event of a conflict,” according to a report.
“This risk could be amplified in countries where nuclear and conventional capabilities or facilities are co-located.”
The US military is one step closer to developing a missile that can fly low and obliterate a person, vehicle, or building without warning by pursuing HAWC.
“A huge gain in warfighting capabilities,” said Raytheon vice president of advanced technology Colin Whelan in a statement.
However, the shape of that battle, which will be aided by the presence of HAWC-style missiles, has yet to be established.
The United States has already been able to hit targets with subsonic cruise missiles in its long and ongoing wars in the twenty-first century.
Bombs and bullets fired from planes, as well as explosives and spinning knife missiles launched from drones
The type of war in which the HWAC is relevant is one in which the opposing country has a variety of defenses against existing weapons.
More importantly, they have powerful weapons with which they may retaliate.