Hypersonics are here to stay

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, July 9, 2015

Rajaram Nagappa, Head-ISSSP, National Institute of Advanced Studies

Bulletin of Atomic ScientistsMy roundtable colleague Mark Gubrud argues for a ban on hypersonic missile testing—an unlikely proposition when the pace of hypersonic missile development is only accelerating.

On June 7, China carried out a fourth test of its hypersonic glide vehicle, the WU-14. The vehicle is said to have traveled at Mach 10; the test reportedly involved “extreme maneuvers.” China has now carried out four hypersonic tests in a span of 18 months—indicating that Beijing accords great urgency and priority to the development of hypersonic technology. Russia is developing its own hypersonic glide vehicle, the Yu-71. The three tests conducted since September 2013 (including a test in February of this year) appear to have been unsuccessful, but the Russians possess the technological wherewithal to field a successful hypersonic glide vehicle eventually. The US military suffered a setback last August in a test of its Advanced Hypersonic Weapon. But the United States has a long history in hypersonic technology development, and last summer’s setback will not dampen Washington’s plans.

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