Last month the US Air Force accidentally released a document soliciting proposals for upgrades to its Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) now under development and slated to replace the current nuclear-armed ICBM fleet. This document indicated interest in a hypersonic glider modification to the GBSD, prompting speculation that the United States might be planning a nuclear-armed hypersonic missile.
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September 18, 2020 10:11 AM EDT
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Hypersonics weaponry—an emerging missile technology that sends warheads gliding through the atmosphere at high speeds—has garnered a great deal of attention in the press. In a recent post I showed that claims of their “revolutionary” advantages are highly exaggerated. Hypersonic weapons travel more slowly than existing ballistic missiles, can be detected by existing satellite technologies, and do not meaningfully alter the balance between missile offense and defense.
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February 3, 2020 11:56 AM EDT
Recent reports would have you believe that hypersonic weapons—an emerging class of low-altitude, high-speed missiles—are poised to revolutionize modern military strategy. A recent op-ed in the New York Times characterized these “game-changing” missiles as the “apotheosis” of airborne weaponry, capable of feats that “no missile can currently achieve.” This fantastical depiction, which underpins a race among the major military powers to develop these weapons, is part of a long pattern of media hype.
But are these weapons really so revolutionary? Will they upend the global security environment? And does their arrival make conflict between United States, Russia, and China inevitable?