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Pentagon: Hypersonic Needed to Defeat Russian Air Defense Systems

by Kris Osborn on March 21, 2014

waveriderPentagon leaders see hypersonic flight of weapons and aircraft as essential to future military superiority, citing it as a revolutionary technology that could enable U.S. forces to thwart sophisticated next-generation integrated air defense systems.

“Integrated air defense systems are getting to be very hard. Electronic warfare is part of the answer but part of the answer is speed. If they can’t catch you – you can get in and do your strike,” said Al Shaffer, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense, Research and Engineering.

Shaffer mentioned Syrian, Russian and Chinese air defense systems as among the more technologically advanced systems, suggesting that hypersonic weaponry could be key in the future should the U.S. need to go up against these countries.

While today’s cruise missiles travel at speeds up to 600 miles per hour, hypersonic weapons will be able to reach speeds of Mach 5 to Mach 10.

Shaffer mentioned hypersonic flight alongside electronic warfare and autonomy as areas of potential revolutionary technological change. As a result, it needs to be an area of continued prototyping, experimentation and emphasis, he said.

He cited four tests of hypersonic technology, highlighting that two of the tests were successful. In particular, he referred to the test of the X-51 waverider over the Pacific Ocean in May of last year wherein a scramjet accelerated to Mach 5.1.

The May 1 test flight, which wound up being the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever, wrapped up a $300 million technology demonstration program beginning in 2004, according to an Air Force statement.

Mounted to a B-52H Stratofortress, the X-51A was released at approximately 50,000 feet and accelerated to Mach 4.8 in about 26 seconds powered by a solid rocket booster. After separating from the booster, The cruiser’s supersonic combustion, or scramjet, engine accelerated the aircraft to Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet, according to Air Force officials.

Shaffer referred to the most recent test as a breakthrough.

“For the second time, we have shown that a scramjet can ignite and get positive acceleration. That is a huge deal. That means we are now beginning to understand hypersonics,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer also added that hypersonic aircraft are expected to be much less expensive than traditional turbine engines because they require fewer parts.

Shaffer did not specifically address China’s recent test of a hypersonic missile, but he did say the U.S. should work to make sure it is the global leader in hypersonic technology.

“We, the U.S., do not want to be the second country to understand how to control hypersonics,” he said.

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{ 126 comments… read them below or add one }

andy March 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Please cut back FOREIGN AID and get a few thousand of these missiles (10,000)…Commi can't never be trusted….

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John Deere March 22, 2014 at 3:13 am

"Foreign aid" is not what you think it is. Not a single Dollar of "aid" money leaves the USA.

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Guest March 22, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Please explain (not being sarcastic, just curious)

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Rest March 23, 2014 at 8:39 pm

The US hasn't any money of its own. Its all borrowed money for fattening the wallets of defense corps.

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Kim Scholer March 24, 2014 at 10:18 am

Of course some money leaves the US, but a lot of aid comes in the form of food bought from US farmers, weapons manufactured in the US etc. etc. It is usually money well spent; preventing hunger, bolstering militaries friendly to the USA, or stabilizing weak economies, that would otherwise douse unrest that might well threaten other local US interests.

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xXTomcatXx March 24, 2014 at 10:20 am

Just hypothesizing, but I'm guessing he's referring to the fact that MOST foreign aid while going towards the development of other countries, is actually eaten up by US companies. Therefore, it actually never really leaves our economy. However, this a generalization and oversimplification in my opinion as many of these companies are global conglomerates (the money isn't taxed) or if they are truly a US company they often hire foreign employees to work in these countries.

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Chris March 21, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Why stop there, just go for WARP Speed…. Don't forget the photon torpedoes.

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Lance March 21, 2014 at 3:12 pm

What? the X-Wing is obsolete???? What about the Death Star?????

DO we have to go with crappy Excelsior class starships too pls no!

LOL just joking.

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Davis March 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Humor Fail !

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John Deere March 22, 2014 at 3:18 am

NASA are already working on it… seriously:
http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/164326-nasa-di

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dkl March 23, 2014 at 9:07 pm

We have learned to expect expensive BS from NASA. Tell them to make a real Saturn V rocket first.

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John Deere March 25, 2014 at 7:25 am

They already have, nearly 50 years ago.

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dkl March 26, 2014 at 2:21 am

Evidence?

Jacob March 23, 2014 at 1:43 am

A warp speed projectile might be enough to destroy the entire planet…

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david March 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm

So long as we elect people like Obama there won't be any need for weapons like this since Obama has no backbone and will let Russia take over all the former USSR without doing a thing.

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Nick March 21, 2014 at 4:29 pm

You're right, what we really need is to get involved in another war, one where an adversary has nukes when we stand to gain nothing. Sounds like a great plan.

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peters March 23, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Well stated.

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Musson March 25, 2014 at 9:06 am

I think there is some realistic response between sending Nukes and freezing Putin's Netflix account. (Which was Obama's go to move.)

Of course, realistic diplomacy has to be taken before the invasion and not after it!

Not Being George Bush is not really a legitimate foreign policy.

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Edward Cafarella March 25, 2014 at 9:14 am

I don't tihnk anyone wants a war but, damn, get someone in there who other leaders will have some respect for. This clown is laughable. His big sanction was to freeze the assets of some high officials? Really? I'm sure Reagan would've done the same thing, right?

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Brad March 21, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Yes, much the same way Bush didn't do much when the Soviets invaded Georgia. Going for WWIII over a former Soviet Republic isn't something most American's wish to die for. But, having said that, I volunteer YOU David to go fight in our place. Need help with a ticket?

Lets let this play out before starting a nuclear holocaust over frickin' Crimea. And in the meantime, watch this video of history: http://loiter.co/v/watch-as-1000years-of-european

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majr0d March 22, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Brad – Actually Bush immediately airlifted Georgian combat troops from in theatre back to Georgia providing combat troops to the Georgians and demonstrating to the Russians we would support the Georgians. The Russians actually held up and backed off from overthrowing the Georgian gov't.

I'll raise your video with a comparison to the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland by Nazi Germany. I'll give you the Europeans often act in their own interest but we are no longer (and haven't been for a long time) untouched by what happens in Europe. WWII demonstrated the folly of isolationism.

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peters March 23, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Yeah right. Bush was such smart and decisive puppet.

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Cataldo March 24, 2014 at 7:00 am

Georgia was used to test Russian defence performance, nothing else. USA lost a lot of hardware there, israelian conunselor too. It was a mess for theme.

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blight_ March 24, 2014 at 9:26 am

The best we could do was airlift a battalion from Iraq duty. We did not airlift uniformed, uninsigniaed goons with openly American weapons to protect Georgian highways and bottle up the Russians. That kind of gambling is a Russian thing.

Edward Cafarella March 25, 2014 at 9:15 am

So where would you draw the line Brad? Poland? France? Just let him take all of Europe? Did you EVER take a history class?

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Tiger March 21, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Backbone? How about the Ukrainian Military? Till I see them even fire a shot, lay off the POTUS.

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blight_ March 24, 2014 at 9:27 am

Indeed. They are probably going to roll back out of the Crimean penninsula without a fight. At the end of the day, the Black Sea is a pond at the mercy of Turkey.

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KingKong March 21, 2014 at 10:03 pm

So, what did you expect him to do? Invade Russia?

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majr0d March 22, 2014 at 6:31 pm

There's a boatload that could be done short of sending US troops to the Ukraine. Read the former NATO commander's assessment http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/03/01/

The "lead from behind" crowd loves to toss around "another war" to justify doing nothing. It has gotten us to this point. Congrats.

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peters March 23, 2014 at 8:46 pm

Funding the mobs, murders, and illegal coup against a democractically president wasn't enough, eh?

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blight_ March 24, 2014 at 12:43 pm

In the old days we didn't care who was in power: just whose pinky they were kissing.

PolicyWonk March 24, 2014 at 8:16 am

Lets not forget, that the "lead from behind" crowd also remembers your hero, who did little more than hand wringing when the ChiComs rammed our spy plane, and forced it to land in hostile territory – and did *nothing*.

How about doing *nothing* when the N. Koreans started testing nukes? Or when they started shooting long-range missiles over Japan? There certainly was a robust load o' strong leadership then, too – right?

The rest of those spineless critics love to forget that the excessive leadership provided by the previous incumbent caused the worst string of national security and foreign policy disasters in history, and by the time he thankfully left office, had the rest of the planets population believing that the USA was a larger threat to world peace than IRAN.

They started with a strong military, and left one behind at its lowest state of readiness since Viet Nam, while simultaneously causing the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression (bringing down the western world with it), after inheriting an $800B annual surplus.

The GOP hitched their wagon to this kind of "strong leader", who strongly led this nation to the brink of ruin, who's administration rightfully earned the dubious distinction of lousiest in a century (and a ranking of 37th, out of 43) in the Presidential Rankings Studies – FAR behind Jimmy Carter (27th. out of 43).

Oddly, even the GOP agrees: not even once, throughout the entire 2012 campaign season, did they mention his name, while not even one candidate sought his endorsement.

Perfection in a POTUS is impossible, because there are many definitions of success or failure. However, if we compare the State of the Union inherited by G W Bush, and compare it to the State of the Union inherited by the current incumbent, it is obvious that strong leadership was absent from 2001-2008 – if you base the definition on results.

The current incumbent was compromised by his predecessor, as each POTUS inherits the economy and military of the proceeding administration, and the GOP has since proven itself incapable of undoing the severe damage it caused during that time period.

If NATO wants to move – then NATO needs to move, and move now.

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majr0d March 24, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Hero? Hardly, Bush had his share of warts and I've pointed them out. No unadulterated worship from me defending the indefensible.

China spy plane incident – the Chinese pilot was killed. The crew was returned in ten days and even the plane were returned. No apology was given. Nor did we pay the one million dollars the Chinese demanded. Immediately thereafter us spy planes stopped being harrassed.

N. Korea's first nuke test – well it's a little late to react after the first nuke goes off. See what we did when the Soviet Union and China exploded their first nukes? The time to stop nukes is before they get them. Maybe you should look at Clinton's initial handling of N. Korea's nuke program which was followed by Bush. BTW, we wanted unlimited referral to the UN's Ch VII which would have opened the door to military action. Even the SOUTH KOREANS rejected that.

The military was not at it's lowest state of readiness since Nam. You constantly make that statement with no evidence. Nice talking point, no substance. (your motto).

You suffer Bush Derangement Syndrome like that has ANYTHING to do with the current administration's handling of anything. Nice attempt at the bait and switch and ignoring any solutions while focusing on blame, classic liberal problem solving.

Lance March 21, 2014 at 3:10 pm

What???? I thought Stealth is all we wanted. The JSF is slow Mach 1 and less maneuverable than the F-16 or F-18 but these block headed brass said who cares its STEALTH!!!!! Now they want again HIGH SPEED! Well its a bit of a improvement.

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DemonHunter March 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm

But it so long to field, and China and Russia stole must of its secrets it is obsolete. They know how to counter stealth and so do we. Speed and Directed Energy is the next frontier.

There are more scifi things like plasma cloaks, but I put no faith in those for medium term.

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William_C1 March 21, 2014 at 11:07 pm

You need stealth to get in range of a lot of targets.

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On March 22, 2014 at 5:14 am

Wait what??? Now they’re admitting the x51 is a missile? It was billed as an aircraft during funding and development and everyone accused them of making a missile. When did they admit it??? Don’t let this stuff slide!

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Guest March 22, 2014 at 7:39 pm

It doesn't matter that the F-35 is sub-mach 1 in cruise. With air to air missiles above mach 3 does or really matter if it can 1.3M instead?? Stealth gets you closer to the target and increases your chances of a safe escape. I'll concede that higher speed will increase the kinematic range of your own weapons, but this is a less significant factor.

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@GreensboroVet March 23, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Lance the F-35 expert. In lighted us with capabilities of the F-35?

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Tribulationtime March 21, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Looks good idea. A scramjet missile which goes down at 5 mach, perform close challenge for air defenses than MIRV. And theoretically cheaper.

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Will March 21, 2014 at 3:18 pm

"Shaffer also added that hypersonic aircraft are expected to be much less expensive than traditional turbine engines because they require fewer parts."

A scramjet vehicle needs some another engine to get it going fast enough for the scramjet to work. So what is Shaffer talking about, if not a turbojet? A rocket motor? Liquid fuel or solid fuel?

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guy March 21, 2014 at 6:27 pm

No need for a turbine assembly in a scramjet. You need a way of getting the rocket up to scramjet engagement speed, but after that the scarmjet takes over (dirt cheap to mass produce).

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citanon March 22, 2014 at 12:21 am

Obviously a solid fuel rocket booster. Cheap, proven and effective.

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Justin March 22, 2014 at 3:34 am

I’m sure they’ll find a way to make sure it’s not cheap. Enough unproven and underdeveloped technologies will be added to it, while concurrently producing it, to ensure that the cost spiral out of control just like they have done with every major weapon system over the past decade. That anyone would even have the idea of suggesting a “dirt cheap” weapon will ever be produced at any time the future, is foolish. I wish that weren’t the case.

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Brian B. Mulholland March 22, 2014 at 4:44 pm

A scramjet missile might have fewer component parts then a turbojet or liquid fueled missile, but there is a staggering amount of R&D waiting to be done to go from an X-51 to a weapon that has sensors that can peer through the plasma generated by its' passage to identify a target. The materials that can tolerate hypersonic speeds tend to be expensive, too. A grain of salt isn't enough here; better to throw that claim down a shaft in a salt mine.

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SAWOLF March 26, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Turbofan.

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blight_ March 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm

http://www.space.com/24317-china-hypersonic-missi

Space seems to think the PRC's version uses the velocity boost of a rocket launch and gravity PE to achieve hypersonic velocities. To contrast this approach uses a bomber to get the altitude, but must reach those velocities through its own power.

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Stan March 22, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Aviation Week described this as a test of a hypersonic reentry vehicle with the purpose of extending the range of tactical ballistic missiles (ASBMs) through the use of hypersonic glide.

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dubweiser101 March 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm

I don't think this is the way to go. During the Cold War the USAF thought that the only way to defeat Soviet missile defenses was by going higher and faster resulting in the pricey Mach 3+ XB-70.

So how did the Soviets respond? They simply built missiles that could also go faster and higher… Moral of the story: It's cheaper to build a missile that can match the performance of an aircraft any day.

They should improve passive systems like ECM, stealth, or even directed energy based weapons that can hit a SAM before it gets within range.

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elcidbob March 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Hitting an object moving so fast, even one with limited maneuvering due to velocity, is not a simple problem. First, you have to detect it. If its low you need over-the-horizon or beyond line of sight detection ability. The higher it is the farther away you can see it, but you'd need defense in depth to combat it. By the time you detect it and generate a targeting solution it has moved a long way. You may have time for some mid-course corrections from a missle site far behind you that you hope is not too far off the approach azimuth. You only get one shot at it so a crossing shot is a low probability of intercept. The interceptor actually needs to blow up ahead of the hypervelocity missle or have a skin-on-skin kill.

Not just a simple problem in geometry, but one of physics as well.

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DarkEnergy March 21, 2014 at 3:38 pm

So far Hypersonics have been slow go. All that work just to get to mach 5 is not impressive. Single stage solid rocket missiles, can do mach5, and even Ramjet Meteor hits mach 4.5.

For this to makes sense you need 1000 plus mile ranges, and mach 8 plus, with 1000 lb warheads.

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John Deere March 22, 2014 at 5:59 am

What's impressive is: it reaches mach 5 with an air breathing engine. But, you're right, development appears to be slow; although I suspect hypersonic vehicles are actually more advanced than is publicly acknowledged; the weapons systems they could provide offer a serious military advantage.

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ronaldo March 24, 2014 at 7:44 pm

If the difference between M 5 on a rocket and M5 on an air breather isn't of great significance to you, then you aren't qualified to discuss anything on this subject.

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RWB123 March 24, 2014 at 8:25 pm

At Mach 8 the warhead would be irrelevant. Sheer impact energy would destroy pretty much any conceivable target. The rest of it sounds good if you can find a way to actually make the thing home on a target.

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John Fourquet March 21, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Based on this article we should cancel the F-35, update legacy fighters and put money into hypersonic systems. Or we could develop better air defenses and do like the Chinese and put conventional warheads on ballistic missiles.

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John Deere March 22, 2014 at 6:04 am

Putting conventional warheads on long range ballistic missiles could trigger nuclear Armageddon. Who's to know what kind of payload you're packing.

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ncb1397 March 22, 2014 at 11:41 am

A first strike would have to include 100s of launches simultaneously to be effective. Russia doesn’t nuke the United States every time we put something into orbit that over flies the country because it *could* have a nuclear weapon on board.

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dkl March 25, 2014 at 3:00 am

That's your argument?

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Kostas March 25, 2014 at 6:23 pm

the same applies to the hypersonic missiles-who knows what you are packing in them and who prevents you from arming them with nukes?

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Peter March 21, 2014 at 4:17 pm

I agree with cancelling the F-35, though that should have been done years back before it cost (lost?) so much money. But one other thing to bear in mind. I don't know the figures but with hypersonic missiles surely you can also cut back on warhead size and use the kinetic energy to do some of the destruction?

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Rob March 21, 2014 at 4:30 pm

All the major powers at be already have overwhelming ability to destroy each other. I do not think a few higher speed weapons would make a difference. It will come down to tactics of who makes other surrender first , after millions are killed, or which side breaks the chain of communication preventing operation orders from being received.

Money better to be spent on shelters, tunnels,redunant communication systems, border defense …

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Allan March 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm

You are missing the point..and much of the discussion also does….The Chinese built a hypersonic cruise missile to defeat the use of aircraft carrier groups which will find it hard to defeat the end game speed. It negates our primary [or at least decreases] our defense and attack capacity that has been unmatched to this time. The true emphasis is dominance over the S China Sea and its oil/gas islands that are owned by other nations.

It does also help in taking out air defensive systems in a conflict…without which air dominance is not obtained…a major fundemental in any conflict.

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Thewhiteurn March 21, 2014 at 4:35 pm

I'm sitting on the tech that can do hyper sonic flight… And I will develop it.
This will kick some butt guys…

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Theblueum March 21, 2014 at 4:53 pm

I, ah, can't wait?

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Shamwowed March 21, 2014 at 5:09 pm

If hypersonics are doable, the only way I believe it could be defeated would be directed energy. I strategic problem to ask is which is more likely; RussiaChina fielding successful lasers or us building a fleet of hypersonic aircraft? Oh well as they say, for every measure there is a counter-measure.

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War Man March 21, 2014 at 6:59 pm

What is wrong with making fighter aircraft have more armor and still make them supersonic instead of being hypersonic and expensive/maintenance heavy?

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ShamWowed March 21, 2014 at 7:12 pm

My guess would be physics. Hard to make heavily armored aircraft perform. Plus no matter how much armor applied, a larger warhead can be put on a SAM.

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Tiger March 21, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Planes are not tanks……

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War Man March 27, 2014 at 8:06 pm

Well aware of that, its just that hypersonic is a real bitch costwise and makes stealth look like the most affordable thing in the world.

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Bernard March 21, 2014 at 7:32 pm

This is a waste. Hypersonic speed is only feasible at high altitude and it ruins maneuverability. Not only that but the fuel required is exponentially more than a subsonic missile.

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ShamWowed March 21, 2014 at 7:54 pm

For penetration into hostile airspace I disagree. The SR-71 is the closest representative that I can think of that proves high-altitude, high speed is effective.

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Bernard March 23, 2014 at 8:49 am

An SR-71 not only communes vaste amounts of exotic fuel, it is not nearly fast enough to escape modern SAMs which have had hypersonic capability for some time now. Given it's mediocre stealth it would not get far in Russian or Chinese airspace. The SR-71 used to be effective, but it isn't anymore.

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ShamWowed March 23, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Agreed. Just saying the concept is proven. If hypersonic aircraft are doable, I do not think missiles could catch them in this era similar to how missiles could not catch the SR in its era. I think the only counter-measure to hypersonic aircraft would be directed energy weapons.

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Bernard March 24, 2014 at 8:54 am

That's not true either, while the SR-71 was faster than the missiles of it's time that advantage did not last long. The missiles of today are already at the upper limits of atmospheric hypersonic flight. You will never make a plane faster than the fastest SAM again. That part of history is closed, it's not going to repeat. A SAM can afford to have stages and burn ridiculous amounts of fuel to destroy it's target. A jet has to be more efficient and reusable.

hpb March 24, 2014 at 12:53 am

Brahmos 2 is under development.
Think they will succeed?

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hibeam March 21, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Hypersonic Missiles are Needed to Defeat Russian Air Defense Systems? Are you implying Hillarie's reset button did not work? Maybe we should try a respect button? R-E-S-P-C-T. The cold war is over and Putin is our bestest new friend ever. Lets stay on that path otherwise we will look like incompetent wishy washy fools.

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peters March 23, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Then there won't be any big govt spending to fatten the coffers of defense corps. That's not acceptable to the owners of this country.

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jsallison March 21, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Two words: Project Thor.

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hibeam March 21, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Could a Hypersonic missile reach Libya in time? That might be a selling point. I assume we would still have to mount them on hot air balloons tethered to our embassy. Otherwise it would be too far. Too far.

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bobbymike March 21, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Time for a massive investment in Prompt Global Strike technologies especially Mach 20+ boost glide systems combined with rebuilding our entire Triad and start building new nuke warheads. Let our enemies know we aren't f*&^ing around.

One trillion for defense!

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John Deere March 22, 2014 at 6:10 am

Sounds like a 1950s job creation program; but, it's the kind of stimulus the economy could do with, in other words: direct investment; rather than neoliberal, supply side, attempts to kick start lending via quantitative easing.

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BlackOwl18E March 21, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Are you kidding me! The F-35 can't defeat Russian IADS, but hypersonic missiles can?

Ordnance is more important than platforms. Sound familiar? Who needs the F-35 when you can have a ton of these hypersonic missile?

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Tiger March 21, 2014 at 9:25 pm

More spending on dream threats, instead of real ones.

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Ms. Putin March 21, 2014 at 9:50 pm

The Israelis got into and out of Syria Six years ago without a scratch using non-stealth aircraft.

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Kruno April 2, 2014 at 1:05 pm

But back then Russkies didn't sell his friend Assad a modern SAM system like S-300. Today they have them and there would surely bring down a few F-15/16. I am not saying that they have enough missiles to bring down the whole fleet but you can guess the American public's reaction if they saw few F-18's being shoot down on CNN. You would either have Go home Americans or blow the shit out of them all.

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Hunter76 March 21, 2014 at 9:57 pm

If we don't cram men into these machines, they'll fly into mountains.

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hibeam March 21, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Can we assume the Marines will demand a Hoppersonic variant?

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Virgil Cuttaway March 21, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Its the Chinese, not the Russians, that Pentagon planners should worry about.

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William_C1 March 21, 2014 at 11:51 pm

In response to the usual "stealth is worthless" talk, think about a few things first.

Does this whole scenario sound familiar? Yeah it was the same story with the B-52 and the ALCM. Of course the USAF knew that some targets aren't easily hit by cruise missiles especially those near the center of a large country. Hence the B-1 and B-2. Very heavily defended targets would require weapons like the supersonic SRAM missile to hit, and such weapons have far less range than a subsonic cruise missile like the ALCM.

Also since we aren't talking about global thermonuclear war we need sensors in the area to locate mobile targets that need to be destroyed. The use of traditional large AWACS aircraft and J-STARS is hindered here by the threat of very-long range missiles.

The useful range of even the best IADS is significantly reduced against stealth aircraft. Meaning that those stealth aircraft can exploit a lot of gaps in an air defense network that would otherwise provide excellent coverage of a large area.

To the F-35 critics, if the threat of the latest Russian and Chinese IADS is as serious as the military thinks it to be, any fighter, even the F-35 is going to need to work in conjunction with other assets to destroy such a collection of high-end air defense systems. You need a combination of stand-off weapons, decoys, stealth, jamming, and advanced EW capability. Perhaps you could be able to do it without stealth but the risk would be far greater requiring many more aircraft in support of such a mission. Even then some losses will be likely.

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Dfens March 24, 2014 at 11:59 am

If stealth is worthless, then why don't we paint our aircraft day-glo-orange? That way it would be easier to find them if they crash? Stealth is worthless, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. It's more enemy propaganda standing in for reality.

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Sanchos March 22, 2014 at 2:29 am

Scramjet originates from australia, but the government barely funds great ideas.

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Justin March 22, 2014 at 3:44 am

“Shaffer also added that hypersonic aircraft are expected to be much less expensive than traditional turbine engines because they require fewer parts”

Sure. Because nothing will have to be done to the aircraft or weapon to improve its structural strength to compensate for its hypersonic speed. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t extremely high maintainance cost per flight hour one of the reasons for the SR71′s demise? I’m sure the more complex manufacturing processes required to produce a hypersonic anything will also add to costs. Add in the guarantee of the DOD thoroughly dicking the development process up and you’ve got another ridiculously expensive system that will be sure to enter service after it’s been obsolete for 5 years.

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GDC March 22, 2014 at 2:16 pm

What are you all talking about?

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raima March 22, 2014 at 5:36 pm

u guys need to work on it and make sure it will happen. I mean now we can't afford wait til tomorrow

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Stan March 22, 2014 at 10:13 pm

On the one hand you can't hit what you can't see. On the other hand no high flying plane is faster than the speed of light. And on the third hand, we are aiming to shoot down ballistic missiles with direct hits so why would a plane be an issue? Maneuverable? Not really. Fast? Missiles can be faster. And so on.

Developing hypersonic weapons is a great idea. Hypersonic attack planes would be a massive boondoggle unless they could be stealthy which is unlikely. The speed itself is not going to save it and in the long run the beam weapons to shoot them down would be much much cheaper. I would remind people that in WW2 Germany's argument that quality is always > quantity was proven to be incorrect.

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Tiger March 23, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Hmmmm…….. Do not take that quantity lesson as gospel.

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Ninh Pham March 23, 2014 at 11:08 am

Hypersonic weapons, Electromagnegtic Pulse weapons, and direct energy weapons, and weather modification weapons are all effective weapons to use in future conflicts. Additionally, cybersecurity is also essential for government and military operations worldwide. Furthermore, computers and networks that including hardware and software are crucial for control these weapon technologies. Secure and freely access into cyberspace is cornerstone for the military future operations around a globe. Of course, other countries such as Russia and China, and others also have been developing these weapon systems.

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anthony bauwens March 23, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Were on the platform and on a very good lead.

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hibeam March 23, 2014 at 7:32 pm

These high speed missiles will reduce the amount of time a directed energy weapon will need to wait before shooting them down. So that's considerate. I like this for civilian jetliners though. San Fran to China in two hours. Go for it.

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hpb March 24, 2014 at 12:51 am

Brahmos 2 is under development also.

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JJ Murray March 24, 2014 at 7:23 am

Aren't these the same Pentagon leaders that for the last few years have been telling us we don't need a big, powerful Army but instead we need a smaller, lighter, military because the days of the big giants on the block fighting was over? Now that they see the possibility of having a pet project scrapped or cut well NOW they decide that Russia and China might really be a threat.

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TonyC. March 24, 2014 at 10:45 am

Hypersonic flight is tricky and the materials technologies are still in development. There is extreme heat associated with hypersonic flight and as stated in another posting, manuverability is very limited ot the aerodynamic forces will tear the vehicle apart. This is a true R&D effort on the part of any country right now.

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Kruno April 2, 2014 at 3:18 pm

I pretty ignorant in this department so if you could explain. You say there is a lot of problems with materials that can't stand the heat. But how come balistic missiles that travel beyond Mach 15 haven't got these problems and they have been flying for decades now. Also SR-71 was speeding over Mach 3 50 years ago, i would guess that materials technology has developed in those 5 decades.

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hibeam March 24, 2014 at 11:23 am

Obama's apologizes can get through Russian air defenses at the speed of light. So why do we need this silly missile?

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Dfens March 24, 2014 at 12:03 pm

We had well respected scientists testify in front of congress that it was impossible to shoot down an in coming ballistic missile, and not a one of these people is in jail for lying to congress, which leads me to wonder why China is working on hypersonic maneuvering warheads in the first place, and why we also need these kinds of hypersonic warheads ourselves. I guess its not a lie if you're telling at least half of congress what they want to hear.

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Rob C. March 24, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Makes me wonder if were going be able have the right approach to be able counter this new weapon. The Laser arguably faster, but being able to deploy it and being nail a quick target like that would sound like it be super tricky.

Hopefully the NASA/DARPA will be able work out the X-51's problem out before Chinese and Russians manage to get their new toys into production.

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hibeam March 24, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Hook your laser up to the cities power grid. City off! Laser on! Power is not the issue. Political will is the problem.

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Da_Bunny March 24, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Wait. We just bet everything on Stealth and it won't defeat IADS?

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hibeam March 24, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Ask Saddam. Nothing can defeat a Russian built IADS.

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Da_Bunny March 24, 2014 at 11:57 pm

I'm willing to bet that dealing with 1980's export quality Russian hardware in Iraq is different than dealing with Russian IADS on the Russian border, backed up by the Russian Air Force.

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d. kellogg March 25, 2014 at 10:00 am

But the argument there is, whatever reason do we have to ever need to go to war with Russia? or china for that matter?

Moreso it seems like a bunch of tired old Cold War leftovers trying to justify their existence in the payroll system by getting humanity to fight the last great war humanity will ever know.
Because once either side realizes it's on the downside of victory, nuclear exchange will happen: the US would never unconditionally surrender to Russia nor china nor vice versa.

More than likely, the future will continue to be proxy wars and police actions, with the occassional deposing of a regional warlord seen unfriendly to the majority in the region. It doesn't take a thousand stealth aircraft and three thousand hypersonic missiles to bully third world regimes.

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Da_Bunny March 25, 2014 at 4:01 pm

We do not need to go to war with Russia. In Russia, war goes to you. Realistically, it's always been our hardware vs their hardware. That's where foreign relations with dictators and warlords who have strategic minerals is justified. All that stuff is just mud in the ground until we invent some technology that needs a lot of it and thus creates high value. Technology creates high value for the third world's mud. The third world is the third world because nobody knew the value those resources until recently, otherwise they would have been fighting over it centuries ago.

hibeam March 24, 2014 at 11:07 pm

Is this the last article DT is ever going to post?

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Kostas March 25, 2014 at 6:37 pm

We should just cancel F35A and F35C and invest that money on directed energy systems, hypersonic missiles and plasma cloaks. The game changer is the F35B. Navy is buying a different plane just for the 190 miles extra range, which would still be insufficient and need air refueling. Air Force is buying a different plane again for 150 miles extra range, while with the F35B could deploy from small airfields (just 100 m of runway instead of kms) much closer to the operations area and achieve shorter turn over time and longer time over the area of interest. I envision (apart from practically increasing the number of aircraft carriers by deploying F35B on LHA/LHDs) small "aircraft carrier at the 100 m long class, with a flat top for F35B take off and landing, and a second deck with 8-12 F35B. Aircraft carriers are too difficult to protect and the impact of losing one would be tremendous, but what will happen if you lose one of the ships I am proposing? Pretty much nothing more than losing a frigate.

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Charles James Haas April 2, 2014 at 3:42 pm

OK, but has anyone noticed how big that missile is? One missile per B-52 pylon. We don't own enough bombers to put out a large IADS system with hundreds of radars and launchers.

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gali March 23, 2014 at 9:01 pm

Cheap missiles? LoL. Guess you will need help from China. But then why would China help the US?

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ronaldo March 24, 2014 at 7:49 pm

You need to read up on the Iron Dome project which has solved all of the problems that you see.

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Joe the Nipper March 25, 2014 at 2:18 am

And? Did anybody say the US has a monopoly on foreign aid? Do you really think the US are the only ones that use foreign aid to increase their influence on other nations and their dependents on them?
And the tech Israel sold was sold to a french company that resold it to china…

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Edward Cafarella March 25, 2014 at 9:17 am

Very well said….

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Riceball March 25, 2014 at 1:42 pm

The SR-71's advantage wasn't just speed, it was its cruising altitude too. It would fly so high and fast that SAMs would waste the majority of its fuel just getting up the same altitude as the SR-71 and then wouldn't have enough fuel left to actually catch up to it.

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Bernard March 25, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Which part of multiple rocket stages didn't you understand? Whatever speed or altitude a plane can achieve, a SAM can out perform. It's a losing battle. Planes cannot use disposable stages of fuel to increase their altitude and speed.

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Stratege April 1, 2014 at 9:21 am

S-200 (SA-5) – the Soviet SAM from the SR-71's era (1960s) had a nearly mach 4+ speed.

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blight_ March 25, 2014 at 3:53 pm

And of course, the inevitable future where someone puts long range radars forward of an airship/aerostat/aircraft that carries long multi-stage SAMs converted for air to air use. Or if they fly at high altitude and can launch from "high ground" at targets below…

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dkl March 26, 2014 at 2:32 am

That's still the case today. Crimea is the latest proof of US hypocrisy.

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