This editorial may not help your sleeping habits or brighten your days, but it is certainly newsworthy and is about a project that you need to be aware of.
We’re referring to hypersonic missiles, capable of moving at 15 times the speed of sound, outpacing their sonic booms.
So which nations are developing these mean machines? The United States, China, Russia and other countries.
R. Jeffrey Smith wrote an article that appeared in the New York Times magazine. It spotlighted Michael D. Griffin, who was named U.S. undersecretary for research and engineering, by then-secretary of Defense James Mattis. Griffin now is in charge of projects that are being developed with an annual budget of more than $17 billion taxpayer dollars.
In recent decades, Griffin’s predecessors prioritized broad research into topics such as human-computer interaction, space communication and undersea warfare.
Speaking at a conference in Washington D.C. on March 6, 2018, Griffin said, “I’m sorry for everybody out there who champions some other high priority, some technical thing; it’s not that I disagree with those, but there has to be a first, and hypersonics is my first.”
The hypersonic missiles are described as fast, effective, precise and unstoppable. So far, there are no stoppable defenses.
U.S. lawmakers have supported a significant expansion of federal spending to accelerate the delivery of what they call a “game-changing technology.”
James Inhofe, the Republican senator from Oklahoma who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said America needs to act quickly, or else the nation might fall behind Russia and China.
In 2018, Congress expressed its consensus in a law requiring that an American hypersonic weapon be operational by October 2022.
This year, the Trump administration’s proposed defense budget included $2.6 billion for hypersonic weapons and national security industry experts project that the annual budget will reach $5 billion by the middle of the next decade.
The Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin more than $1.4 billion in 2018 to build missile prototypes that can be launched from Air Force fighter jets and B-52 bombers.
In December, the acting defense secretary, Patrick M. Shanahan, said that the Trump administration’s goal of “industrializing” hypersonic missile production is just the beginning of the incredible, long-range project.
Shanahan on June 18 withdrew his name from consideration in the quest to name a new Defense secretary. Secretary of the Army Mark Esper is next in the line of succession, since he is Senate-confirmed.
Griffin is known as a scientific optimist who regularly called for “disruptive innovation” and who prized speed above all. He repeatedly complained about the Pentagon’s sluggish bureaucracy, which he saw as mired in legacy thinking.
“This is a country that produced an atom bomb under the stress of wartime in three years from the day we decided to do it,” he told a congressional panel last year. “This is a country that can do anything we need to do that physics allows. We just need to get on with it.”
Although hypersonic missiles can, in theory, carry nuclear warheads, those being developed by the United States will only be equipped with small conventional explosives.
With a length between five and 10 feet, weighing about 500 pounds, the missiles function like nearly invisible power drills that smash holes in their targets to catastrophic effect.
America’s super-sophisticated technicians must be encouraged to speed far ahead of other nations’ experts. The powers that be in Washington D.C. seem to be pressing the mission with plentiful funding.
Sleep well. Our experts can be counted on to lead the world in developing these superlative weapons.