Pentagon seeks to speed up hypersonic weapons development

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Pentagon seeks to speed up hypersonic weapons development

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will push the nation’s top defense companies to speed their development of hypersonic weapons in a high-level meeting next week.

The United States has “a lot of catching up to do very quickly,” US Space Force Gen. David Thompson told CNN, after weapons tests by China and Russia took US national security officials by surprise in recent months — and after the American military suffered two catastrophic test failures in 2021.

The highly maneuverable weapons fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound — posing a dangerous threat to missile defense systems.

The Pentagon’s virtual meeting, set for Feb. 3, aims to “light a fire underneath the entire hypersonic industry,” according to executives at two of the dozen defense contractors — including Boeing, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman — that have been invited to attend.

In October, American military officials sounded the alarm after China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, warning that the Chinese Communist Party will soon surpass American military capability.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has invited US defense contractors to the Feb. 3, 2022 meeting.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
 People walk past a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on January 11, 2022.
North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a hypersonic missile on Jan. 11, 2022.
AFP via Getty Images
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark Milley
Gen. Mark Milley admitted that China’s hypersonic weapon test was very close to a “Sputnik moment.”
Alex Wong/Getty Images
A man walks past a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on January 11, 2022.
The North Korean missile test on Jan. 11, 2022 led to the temporary grounding of US flights across the West Coast.
AFP via Getty Images

“I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the time. “But I think it’s very close to that.”

North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a hypersonic glide vehicle on Jan. 11 — a launch that spurred airports across the western United States to temporarily halt flights.

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