Hypersonic Missiles: What Are They And Can They Be Stopped?
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by Adam Muspratt for Defence IQ
An overview of hypersonic missiles
After a long hiatus, hypersonic missile research and development is back in full swing.
Major Powers, such as Russia, China and the US have been racing to develop hypersonic missile – a missile system so fast that it cannot be intercepted by any current missile defence system.
Hypersonic missiles will play a huge role in foreign policy in the years to come, as core pillars of geopolitics such as geography and technological power can be undermined by hypersonic missiles. And, given a recent uptick in "successful" tests from the likes of China and Russia, hypersonic missiles are much closer than we think, forcing a global re-assessment of traditional notions of deterrence.
Defence IQ wanted to explore this topic in greater detail, so we have sought the expertise of Dr James Bosbotinis, a UK-based specialist in defence and international affairs, with a particular focus on maritime and air force developments.
What is a hypersonic missile?
A hypersonic missile travels at speeds of Mach 5 and higher - five times faster than the speed of sound (3836 mph), which is around 1 mile per second. Some missiles, such as Russia's upcoming Kh-47M2 Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile, are allegedly capable of reaching Mach 10 speeds (7672 mph) and distances up to 1200 miles.
For comparison, the US Tomahawk cruise missile – the United States Navy and Royal Navy's go-to long range missile-system – is subsonic, travelling around 550 mph and travelling a maximum distance around 1500 miles.
Can hypersonic missiles be stopped?
Hypersonic missiles are so valuable because there is currently no operational or reliable method of intercepting them. However,...