Hypersonics

Hypersonics

Hypersonic weapons travel in excess of five times the speed of sound—Mach 5—covering vast distances in minutes. 

Hard to stop, they fly and nimbly maneuver to avoid detection and dodge defensive countermeasures. 

To help keep the world safe, we’re using our decades of expertise to deliver digitally engineered, end-to-end offensive and defensive technologies. And the innovation never stops.

An artist's rendering of a hypersonic missile flying through the sky over a mountain range

Fostering innovation

Hypersonic capabilities require a blend of proven technology with cutting-edge developments in aerodynamics, thermodynamics, materials science, guidance, navigation and control, space capabilities, high-speed processing and communications.

Strengthening alliances and partnerships with universities, industrial peers, allied countries and the government is crucial to advance the state of the science. By working together, we share knowledge, infrastructure, human resources and funding to address the threat. 

Partnering with the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office and academic research institutions to face the challenge together will have cascading benefits. Many of the required skills are applicable to commercial aerospace and other areas of development needed to maintain a technological edge.

Engineers at the University of Arizona wind tunnel.

Taking flight

Hypersonic testing and fielding is a top priority, and moving technology out of laboratories and into test environments is more important than ever. Design and subsystem testing has progressed, and it is time to maximize testing and begin flying hypersonic vehicles. 

Critical data will be gathered to confirm ground test and simulated physics to rapidly support fielding. Concurrent with flight testing, we will invest in the industrial base to support production of hypersonic weapons at rate. A robust and resilient supply chain is key to moving quickly to stay ahead of advanced threats.

From CSIS: Hypersonic strike and defense

Erin Kocourek, our hypersonics campaign senior director, shares how we're using digital design tools in the development of hypersonics.

Advanced offensive hypersonic capabilities

We’re applying our advanced weapon expertise to develop air-breathing hypersonic systems. With engines built on a technology called scramjet, the system uses a booster to reach cruising speeds. The missiles fly at sustained speeds above Mach 5 at certain altitudes to maintain the supersonic airflow the scramjet engine needs to function optimally.

Guiding a hypersonic vehicle to its target is challenging. A missile heats up as it accelerates through the atmosphere and its sensitive inner electronics must be protected from blazing temperatures without adding extra weight, which can affect speed, range and guidance. 

We’re investing in new infrastructure, people and technology to meet and overcome challenges in developing this advanced capability. 

Countering the hypersonic threat

We’re also continuing to innovate breakthrough hypersonic technologies to counter the threat. From advanced sensors that detect the threat to a command-and-control system passing information to the effector that enables target defeat, we have the technology to take out threats ahead of time.

Our systems are getting smarter every day. We continue to evolve our missile interceptors, directed energy and cyber technologies to address the hypersonic threat.

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