The Pentagon has officially embarked on the hypersonic race by charging the US defense group Lockheed Martin to develop the first American missile capable of flying at a speed five times faster than that of sound.
The Pentagon announced on Wednesday night that it is giving Lockheed Martin a contract of up to $928 million indefinitely for the design, development and testing of a hypersonic air-to-surface missile.
The new head of research and development at the Pentagon, Michael Griffin, said Tuesday that hypersonic missiles were now the number one priority of the US Defense.
“In my opinion, the most significant advance of our adversaries has been the development by China of what is today a very advanced system of conventional strikes with a range of several thousand kilometers,” he said during a congressional hearing.
With the current capabilities of the United States, “we will not see these things coming at us,” said Griffin, who is a former NASA engineer. Once detected by US missile defense systems, “we will have very little time to respond,” he said.
Beijing has announced that its scientists are building a powerful wind tunnel, which will be used to design planes and missiles capable of flying at over 12,000 km/h, or 10 times the speed of sound.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also praised his new “invincible” weapons in early March, including new hypersonic cruise missiles.
Soon after, Russia announced that it had successfully fired its new hypersonic missile “Kinjal”, claiming that “there is no equivalent to the Kinjal missile in the world”.
“The development of China’s hypersonic weapons has surpassed us,” Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command (Pacom), recently admitted to Congress. “We are lagging behind.”