There are many articles and reports from Newsweek or other media sources that complain that the US military is behind China and Russia on hypersonic weapons. This is because Russia and China have rushed to deploy some hypersonic warheads boosted on regular rockets.
China and Russia each have some hypersonic glide missiles. The warheads are tiny and most are just slightly faster conventional rockets.
The US has been testing more advanced hypersonic missiles with scramjet engines but has not deployed them.
However, there is a US hypersonic bomber that is in development that outclasses all of the other hypersonic weapon systems. It can travel up to 20 times the speed of sound and will have a range of 8000 miles. It will be able to start and restart its engines to change direction or increase speed. It will have a payload of up to 200-350 tons. This weapons payload is up to ten times the 35 ton payload of the B-52. This US future hypersonic bomber is the SpaceX Starship. This is just the upper stage of the Super heavy starship.
The hypersonic SpaceX Starship will be about 2 to four times faster than the hypersonic missiles, which fly at about Mach 5 to 6.
The China DF-21 missiles cost about $10 million each. The SpaceX Starship has six engines that each cost about $250,000 to $500,000. The Starship is made of stainless steel. A mass produced SpaceX Starship can cost $10 million each.
Most of the hypersonic missiles have warheads that weigh 350 kilograms or less. The 200 to 350 ton payload of SpaceX Starship will enable about 1000 times the weapons capacity of the hypersonic missiles.
The SpaceX Starship can just be filled with metal objects like large ball bearings. The kinetic energy from the mass of something moving at 20 times the speed of sound is over 4 times the mass in TNT. This means the 1200 tons of propellant accelerates 200-350 tons of payload to very high kinetic energy. The Starship will be fully reusable. It can refueled and reloaded with more metal projectiles that have no chemical explosives. The objects for kinetic energy weapons can have some guidance systems for guide to precise targets.
China and Russia Hypersonic Missiles
China DF-ZF (developed and deployed) / Mach 5-10 [probably 100-400 kilogram warhead]
Russia Avangard (developed and deployed) / Mach 20–27
Russia has some air launched hypersonic weapons : Kh-47M2 Kinzhal (probably a 400 kilogram warhead)
3M22 Zircon (hypersonic cruise missile with a scramjet engine, boosted with a regular rocket fired from navy ships, 300-400 kilogram warhead)
R-37 (an air to air missile that can reach mach 5-6, 60 kilogram warhead)
France Hypersonic weapon development
VERAS (program launched in 1965 and cancelled in 1971)
VMaX (first flight test took place on June 26, 2023 from the DGA’s site in Biscarrosse and was successful)
VMaX-2 (under development; first flight test expected in 2024 or 2025)
India HGV-202F (under development)
Japan Hyper Velocity Gliding Projectile (HVGP) (under development)
North Korea Hwasong-8 (under development)
Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (experimental)
OpFires (under development)
Common-Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) (in development for US Army (LRHW) and US Navy Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS))
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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