The heart of the hypersonic missile program is all about penetrating through enemy air defenses but there are many ways to do that without burning a hundred million dollars which is about how much these babies are estimated.
Hypersonic meaning they can fly at five times the speed of sound or more than that. Right now the developments that we are looking at from a missile defense perspective are way behind the development of these hypersonic missiles.
Russia launched a hypersonic missile that traveled hundreds of miles and detonated in western Ukraine, making it the first time that a hypersonic was ever used in combat. They launched a second attack at a fuel depot that very next day both of these missiles were likely fired from a MIG-31 fighter jet.
Vladimir Putin has called this an invincible weapon but there are many voices in the defense industry pointing out that hypersonic might actually be a terrible direction to go in.
The origins of this technology might actually surprise you. The first ballistic missile that kicked off all of this was the german v2 rocket. The very same missiles that started the space race but since ICBMs travel very high and into space, there is a ton of mathematical calculations required for each ICBM to reach its target once fired.
They can’t change their course in the mid-flight. So, they are easily tracked and shot down. Militaries around the world have air defenses that are specifically designed to defeat these types of predictable missile threats.
Hypersonic missiles travel somewhere in between and they can take advantage of this, they are able to course correct. Ballistic missiles, once they launch have a set trajectory so they travel from point A on a set course to point B. A hypersonic missile analyst can be launched at a very fast speed and then sort zigzag on its way to a target. There are three main types that you need to know about.
So the Aeroballistics systems are designed to be dropped from an aircraft it’s really the only type of one really in any large-scale operational use today. The second type is the hypersonic glide vehicles, which are boosted by a rocket to high altitudes and then glide down to the target.
The Scramjet missiles are hypersonic cruise missiles that are still considered a future system. It’s been in the testing but hasn’t yet been perfected. The reason these systems are so threatening is that you can control them mid-flight. Even if you can detect and identify them it’s almost impossible to predict where they are going to land. Which makes shooting them down incredibly hard. The hypersonic that the Russian forces use to attack western Ukraine is known as the KINZHAL KH-47M2. It’s an aeroballistic missile it’s been worked on by the Russians since the 1980s.
The KINZHAL had never been used in combat until now. It has a range of 2000 kilometers or 3000 kilometers depending on the aircraft that you attached it to. It flies at a ceiling of 20 Kilometers and 66,000 feet and it can reach a speed of MACH 12. That’s 12 times faster than the speed of sound.
China is in the lead with hypersonic missile developments. Having test-fired one that went all the way around the world. It hit a test target within china. General John Hayton said that he believes that these look like first-strike weapons. When you look at how expensive they are to create. The only way it might make sense to use them is on a nuclear strike.
Why is it that the Russian military has and the US is struggling to develop it still? Let’s talk about it in a later article. Let us know what you think about these hypersonic missiles.
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