Saturday, May 07, 2016

The Race to Hypersonic Missiles Around the World

As the USA, Russia and China pursue long-range, high-speed boost-glide and scramjet/ramjet-powered strike weapons, the deputy commander of US Strategic Command Lt Gen Stephen Wilson says arming those hypersonic vehicles with nuclear warheads is not currently part of the conversation, at least not for America.

The velocity of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic cruise missile (ICBM) can be as high as Mach 20, or 20 times the speed of sound, during powered flight, but today’s nuclear-armed cruise missiles are much slower and therefore more easily intercepted.

The US Air Force's turbofan-powered Boeing AGM-86 air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), for instance, has an advertised speed of Mach 0.65, or 500mph (800km/h). Boeing’s experimental hypersonic vehicle, the X-51 WaveRider, achieved a top speed of Mach 5, or 3,300mph, during a powered flight in 2013.

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