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Utopia Talk / Politics / I feel very unsafe: hypersonic weapons
Average Ameriacn
Tue May 15 16:17:56
Are they're targeting me right now?


U.S. falls behind Russia and China in race to develop hypersonic weapons

May 9, 2018

It is a non-nuclear weapon that theoretically can hit any target around the world in one hour — while evading the most modern of missile defense systems. The Russians on Wednesday paraded one in Red Square, and China is aggressively pursuing a development program for its own variant.

In the race to develop hypersonic weapons, the Pentagon finds itself in an unfamiliar place: trailing its two main military rivals in a cutting-edge military technology and scrambling to catch up.

Despite spending almost the past decade at the forefront of development for hypersonic weapons technology, the U.S. is potentially behind China and Russia in an emerging arms race.

Top U.S. military brass, past and present, have touted the weapon’s speed and versatility as a viable alternative to the nuclear bomb — the only other weapon in the American arsenal that can travel as far and fast as a hypersonic missile.

Theoretically, U.S. forces would need only a handful of the missiles to take out high-value targets at hypersonic speeds, which could easily evade the most advanced air defense systems.

“I wish to hell we had one when [Osama] bin Laden was in Tora Bora,” a U.S. military source said in 2012 at the peak of U.S. hypersonics development.

But after numerous test and design failures, Pentagon support faded for hypersonics and development of a Prompt Global Strike missile, and resources were shifted toward other efforts such as long-range missile defense systems and next-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The last concerted efforts by the U.S. to develop a hypersonic weapon was the 2011 HTV-2 Falcon, a missile-based system created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the 2010 Air Force X-51 Waverider scramjet hypersonic weapon. Neither made it out of the early development phase.

“Hypersonic weapons systems could dramatically alter the existing balance of conventional military power forces between the United States and its major competitors,” Daniel Goure, vice president of the public policy research think tank Lexington Institute, wrote recently in the foreign policy journal National Interest. “They could strike key military targets such as airfields, command and control centers, depots and force concentrations almost without warning.”

The weapons are seen as particularly useful against such targets as aircraft carriers, amphibious warfare ships and critical military supply transports, Mr. Goure said.

Russia and China rushed to fill the gap in the field of hypersonic weaponry. Moscow, first to claim it, developed the first combat-ready hypersonic missile this month.

Russian military officials announced the first deployment of the Kinzhal, or “Dagger,” hypersonic missile aboard 10 MiG-31 fighter jets on test combat duty, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said during an interview Saturday with Russian news outlet Zvezda TV.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin in the reviewing stand, the Dagger was one of the prime attractions at Wednesday’s annual parade marking the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany.

“It is a cutting-edge weapon capable of overcoming air and missile defenses. It is invincible, having serious combat might and potential,” said Mr. Borisov, confirming the weapon’s deployment.

Mr. Putin touted the weapon’s game-changing ability during a speech to the Federal Assembly on March 1.

“I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development … you have failed to contain Russia,” he said at the time.

Russia is not alone in the race to be the next hypersonics power.

Regional news reports say China last year successfully tested a hypersonics missile dubbed the DF-17. The test was confirmed by sources within the U.S. intelligence community, who declined to comment on how close Beijing was in getting the weapon fully operational. Recent reports say the DF-17 could possess a kill range of up to 1,200 miles and could be fielded as soon as 2020.

The Russian and Chinese claims have caught the attention of senior U.S. military brass, who are once again sounding the alarm at the Pentagon’s lack of parity in the hypersonics domain.

“You should believe Vladimir Putin about everything he said he’s working on,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, chief of U.S. Strategic Command, told reporters last month at a space symposium in Colorado Springs.

“There are certain areas where I think we have advantages on Russia and China in hypersonics. But what they’ve done, what is significant, is they’ve done full-up integrated testing of those capabilities,” Gen. Hyten said in remarks covered by Defense News.

Navy Adm. Philip Davidson, who will replace Adm. Harry Harris as head of U.S. Pacific Command, also expressed concern about China’s pursuit of hypersonic weapons.

“It’s clear to me that some of our potential adversaries are innovating with weapons systems that we need to catch up on, in some cases, or advance the gap that we currently might hold over them,” he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing last month.

“I am highly concerned about China’s pursuit of hypersonics, and that is one area in which we need to get after quickly [and] allow us to innovate more quickly” to address the threat.

The military blog We Are The Mighty reported this week that the Air Force is developing an aggressive timetable to design, test and deploy hypersonic weapons, including air-launched weapons and a conventional strike missile.

Air Force. Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told Congress last month that China and Russia are building missiles designed to defeat missile defenses, including hypersonic cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles launched atop ballistic missiles.

“The combination of high speed, maneuverability and relatively low altitude makes them challenging targets for missile defense systems,” he said.

Advances by potential adversaries in the field is one of the greatest threats to U.S. security, the general said.

“We are executing the planning, and I expect to see a significant increase in the amount of time and resources that we will spend in that area,” he told a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing last month.

The concern about a hypersonic missile gap is reflected in the Pentagon’s defense spending request for the coming fiscal year, which called for $256 million for hypersonics work at DARPA.

On Friday, members of the House Armed Services Committee added $20 million to that figure in their version of the Pentagon spending blueprint for fiscal year 2019. It remains to be seen whether their Senate counterparts will follow suit when they mark up their defense spending bill later this month.
Tue May 15 16:20:30

"U.S. falls behind Russia and China in race to develop hypersonic weapons"

People will believe anything.

the wanderer
Tue May 15 16:30:28
Russia & China will be our allies soon under dictator Trump so no problem

Tue May 15 16:55:29

Russia has deployed operational hypersonic weapons, they are recognised as being the leaders in this field.

China's stuff (that works) is not dissimilar to the Pershing - i.e. boost glide reentry vehicle.

The US stuff, when it works, will be better than the Russians, but it doesn't work yet.

And as you pointed out in the other thread, deployment matters.

The US has no hypersonic weapons operational. The Russians have a squadron of jets armed with a hypersonic missile that has been publicly tested.
Tue May 15 17:02:23

Like I said, people will believe anything.

Tue May 15 17:14:24

The US has tracked and observed Russia and China's tests. The Kinzhal is a cut down air launched Iskander. That'll still get you mach 10 though.

So depends really. Is it some super duper SCRAM jet thing that the US hasn't got to work? No. Does it provide a military capability the US doesn't have? Yes.

There's not much you need to take on faith.

I think the one clinging to beliefs here is you mate.
Tue May 15 17:15:14
The "Japs will never be able to attack us, they will make terrible pilots because of their slitty eyes, anyone who says different is a credulous fool"
school of analysis.
Tue May 15 17:17:59
The US really needs to either stop fannying around with overly complex schemes and ship some incremental stuff, or get that overly complex thing to actually work.

Sure, SCRAM jets can get you to the Mach 14-17 range. But they don't work.

A big fucking rocket launched from a fast jet will get you to Mach 10, which is fast enough to penetrate air defences reliably.
Tue May 15 17:40:07

Yeah, it has a 2000km range to go with its mach 10 speed and can maneuver at every stage of flight and hit moving targets.

"It is invincible."

I think we should just go ahead and surrender now.

Sam Adams
Tue May 15 20:03:50
"A big fucking rocket launched from a fast jet will get you to Mach 10"

And a big rocket launched from a sub will get you mach 20. And?
large member
Tue May 15 21:30:28
and fast missiles are survivable missiles.
Hot Rod
Revved Up
Tue May 15 23:15:13

You guys better get religion fast just in case there is something to it.

Sam Adams
Tue May 15 23:37:37
"and fast missiles are survivable missiles."

Lol completely wrong.

Nothing is more visible than a high powered motor at high altitude.
large member
Tue May 15 23:38:13
Sam Adams
Tue May 15 23:52:57
Lol its like a canoe telling a battleship to go away.
large member
Wed May 16 00:03:23
Wed May 16 01:43:09
This article reads like all the other articles like this from all the previous years, where military leaders try to rattle the civilian cage so they get more money.
Wed May 16 02:46:58

It's a big fuckoff rocket launched at supersonic speeds in the upper atmosphere.

You've no doubt watched musks rockets do backflips and vertical landing. Grid fins, exhaust vanes and humbled engines.

Hitting moving targets, just a question of look down radar. Most modern bombs can do this.

Not sure why you find any of those capabilities incredible.

Pershing RVs could nearly do all of that God knows how many decades ago.

Those travel ballistic trajectories

The problem is it also reads like the ones where the military leaders were subsequently proved right. The trick is telling which one corresponds to now.
large member
Wed May 16 03:18:41
The thinking in the article is a bit odd.

The US needs defenses against hypersonic missiles more than it does the missiles themselves.

This due to sunk costs in USN and USMC major surface combatants in addition to its global base network.

It has the force projection capability. Better to safeguard that capability, than to hedge against losing it.

All we are seeing is "rofl@subsonic missiles" + "send a re-entry vehicle down a nuclear carrier's smokestack" (memorable because sammy took the figurative smokestack literally).

Or stuff I have been warning about for more than 15 years :).
Wed May 16 03:33:55
"The trick is telling which one corresponds to now."

Ah yes, expert opinions. Not very useful when only expertier experts can make distinguish between fact and fiction. This house of cards comes down since the expertier experts are politicians and it ultimately comes down to partisan bickering. HOPEFULLY good sense prevails. But in my opinion flipping a coin would be a more effective process. Heads, missile defense, tails, new submarines! Best out of 3 of course.
Wed May 16 03:34:44
*And of similar quality!
Sam Adams
Wed May 16 06:48:41
Lol jergul thought a nuclear carrier had a smokestack.
large member
Wed May 16 10:05:06
lol. sammy thinks figurative means literal.

Wed May 16 10:53:37

"This article reads like all the other articles like this from all the previous years, where military leaders try to rattle the civilian cage so they get more money."


Sam Adams
Wed May 16 13:12:55
Jergul tried to defend his smokestack comment by saying that nuke plants need steam cooling, both forgetting that carriers sit in water and clearly showing his original comment was intended to be literal.

Lol jergul physics.
Wed May 16 13:45:14

"The US needs defenses against hypersonic missiles more than it does the missiles themselves."

Er, really? A few lines later your arguing "subsonic missiles rofl".

Plus really, there isn't much you can do to protect a carrier against a hypersonic missile in the long run. As I argued since forever back when this board was still alive (Caldwell? I think?), the investment stacks up in a way that gives the attacker an advantage.

Hit to kill anti missiles systems will help mitigate the risk, but the risk is there.

The DF-21 is a little overrated, but once people are throwing hypersonic cruise missiles around, the US set up of carriers and bases looks pretty vulnerable.

"Or stuff I have been warning about for more than 15 years :)."

We've all been talking about it for more than 15 years!

The defence against these is: disrupt kill chain, railguns, and (20 years out) big fuck-off FELs if they can be made viable.

large member
Wed May 16 15:52:17
Saturation still works. Syria shows that 1/3 - 2/3ds of missiles will go off-target for whatever reason, but that still leaves some getting through.

But the US really does need to safeguard its ships. And consider new doctrines for future ship building.

We have indeed all been talking about this. In sense I was saying it* would happen and the rest of you were swearing to its impossibility for all kinds of reasons.

it* = "but once people are throwing hypersonic cruise missiles around, the US set up of carriers and bases looks pretty vulnerable"

I can think of more counter measures. A lot more actually.

I will take you off my hush list if you can make an attempt to behave.

Your recall is correct. However, I used it figuratively (I meant hit the aircraft carrier with a solid smack). We ended up on a side track discussion on if carriers had ventilation shafts at all.
Thu May 17 03:39:37

You misrememmber. Our disagreement was purely about degree.

I think e.g. df-21s are a very credible threat, but not a silver bullet and that the US had and retains near term countermeasures that make operations in China's AD area viable if risky. Asside from various abm schemes, the chinese overall chain of sensors etc can be disrupted.

Long term, we agreed they need to move to smaller ships and subs rather than big cap ships.

Hence my confusion with you assertion "protect the carriers". The logic seems the other way.

large member
Thu May 17 03:51:35
I am pretty sure I recall correctly. I initiated discussions before we knew about the Chinese stuff.

The concept is a simplified variant of Rods from the Gods.

The silver bullet is in the form of access denial.

The US cannot disrupt Chinese satelittes physically due to the absolute catastrophic effects of tit-for-tat retaliation (I don't think US sailors can use the heads without gps guidance).

We did indeed agree that sub surface and smaller surface combatants is the way to the future. But that was at a far later date.

Carriers and global base networks are sunk costs and US doctrine depends on them.

Though ultimately, the US is going to have to prepare itself psycologically for meaningful combat attrition if it wants to retain its global posture forward into the 21st century.

In the realm of 1% of engaged manpower and material per day would be a good expectation.
Thu May 17 05:39:45

I think you would find I was talking about BMs with DU flechettes back when the bring back battleships brigade was still around in 2000ish.

The US wouldn't necessarily need to disrupt satelites physically, but i also dont agree that if they did it would be catastrophic (particularly as e.g. Galileo exists).

Both sides have strong incentives to limit escalating too broadly

large member
Thu May 17 06:07:41
Was that before or after you called Abu-Graib based on the rapid uptick of incidents and on the rage short term detainees demonstrated on camera at the gates of the complex on release?
large member
Thu May 17 06:10:43
Ok, so China uses glosnas and the US uses Galileo. Yay, what fun.
large member
Thu May 17 06:22:02
The scattershot principle based on submunitions to compensate for low terminal accuracy was me. Self-sharpening DU that followed was a combined effort, but also in 2004.

But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Jergulmath is validated!
Thu May 17 07:34:59

I think you probably are greatly overestimating the level of creativity needed to come up with that concept. It's quite possible to independently arrive at the same conclusions.

I remember doing order of magnitude calculations way back. I was using my parents computer at 1am and my Dad blew his nut. He died in 2003. So before then.

Now I lent heavily on the research I'd done on du munitions for anti tank rounds, which was for a school science newspaper article, which would have been around 1998-9 as that was something for Uni interviews.

The bring back the battleship brigade was led by... I want to say Caldwell but I think actually that was a guy who came much later. I think double barrelled name. First bit c second bit s?

And bring back battleships must surely have been before 9/11 - must have been Pacific.

I would guess then 2000-2001 and relating to korea, triggered off Bushes Korea doctrine (either during campaign or in govt before 9/11). There must have been some whataboutery regarding kicking North Korea's arse and Chinese options.

The point back then was "an anti ship ballistic missile is eminently feasible and cosy effective so no point in battleships as an alternative to unarmoured ships".

Sam Adams I don't quite think was on the scene at the time, or perhaps just started and was calling himself 44guns. He might have been carrying an onion in acsock, as was the fashion at the time.

Sadly, these are lost to the past.
Thu May 17 07:36:42
Goddamit. Battleship guy's name is going to bug me pretty sure it began "Cau" but definitely had an S in it.
Thu May 17 07:36:55
Any old timers remember?
large member
Thu May 17 08:00:44
What is it supposed to do that cannot be acheived more economically by other means?

The pedigree was based on the following assumptions:

Aegis is full-proof (or so everyone was saying in this forum), or will be. How can that be overecome short of nuclear weapons?

Well, rods from god's would work.

What is more economical than that?

Hypersonic stuff.

What about terminal targeting at high speed?

Scatter gun.

Well, that would assume a top-down terminal approach.

Balistic missile with kinetic submunitions!

Which evolved to flechettes (that I make no independent claim of discovery for and which is where I think we pseudo-aligned).

Its actually complex shit - as our ongoing discussions show. See initial sentence in this post.

The question is always what is the most elegant solution with realistic technology?
Thu May 17 12:13:43

Well, I started off a lot more sceptical about ABM - but this was before HTK stuff when patriot missiles were the thing.

As I recall the conversation went something like:

"The Norks will get a bomb if you withdraw from the sunshine programme"

"Bomb the fuckers and overthrow them raaa"

"They'll shell seoul"

"Bomb that too, nukes, invasion"

"Chinese will intervene if you do"

"Bomb them too, so many carriers, so many planes"

"The chinese will throw a billion silkworm clones at you."

"That's why we need battleships, anti ship missiles are tiny compared to old ship-to-ship shells. Sides of iron! Silkworms will bounce off. 18 inch shells raining death upon the slitty eyed bastards, raaa"

"Right, but a battleship will cost billions, and I can just make a bigger missile and it will still be cost effective and you battleship will sink"

"Patriot missiles! Raa"

"Ok, well, what if I drop a big fucking lump of uranium from you at hypersonic speeds? Patriots won't work on that"

"Don't be crazy, they can't do that, they are chinese" (Do you remember Edward and his rabid hatred of the ChiComs).

"Here, let me do the maths for you. And actually maybe it would be better just to have lots of kinetic penetrators a bit bigger than are on tanks - the deck armour isn't that strong"

To be fair, since then missile defence focused on htk technology. HTK would stop a big solid lump of DU.

I do recall we've done variants since - but these ideas are not novel - even when they have been novel for us.

I would have been surprised if I was arguing aegis could work against ASBMs in 2008. SM3/6 didn't start production until 2011?. No way SM2 is going to work against a ASMB.

That's why I was suggesting "drop a big lump of uranium", it's proof against fragmentation warheads.

Now SM3/6 offers some protection against DF-21, but less so if they went to a cluster munition.

And in some ways, as I think we said at the time, if you were being smart you would use sub-munitions optimised for completely ruining the flight deck.

Limits the scope for escalation if instead of killing thousands and sinking a carrier, you merely send it limping back to port with a few scores of dead.

large member
Thu May 17 12:33:57
Yes, we did indeed think mission kills are superior to sinking CVNs. A carrier limping home to the States gives a pretty good cool-off period with the US vested in non-escalation until the limping is done at least (imagine the 24-hour news coverage cycle).

Interestingly, the Chinese carrier killer missile seems dimensioned for mission kill, not actually sinking carriers.

To me, the whole point of shooting from the hip (postulating beyond what the evidence allows) is to be spectacularly right.

I do it regularly and still give myself a 70% success rate.
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