Articles

These 5 hypersonic weapons are the future of military firepower

For the last several years, the world's most powerful militaries have been hard at work developing the next generation of long-range missile technology.


The main objective is to reach farther, faster.

That's prompted weapons designers to push the boundaries of physics and hit speeds in the "hypersonic" realm, which is typically considered atmospheric travel faster than Mach 5

Imagine a missile fired from the Chinese mainland that could strike anywhere in the South China Sea in 20 minutes. That could be a massive game changer for such a turbulent region, many strategists believe.

There's an international arms race in progress to develop hypersonic weapons. Four countries, including China, Russia, India, and the U.S., are in various phases of research, testing, or otherwise developing hypersonic weapons systems — planes, warheads, and cruise missiles capable of sustaining speeds well above Mach 5.

1. DF-ZF Hypersonic Glide Vehicle – China

The most promising Chinese hypersonic vehicle was successfully tested as recently as April. Beijing's "Dong Feng" DF-41 ICBM carried two nuclear-capable warheads from the mainland into the South China Sea. To underline the tension in the South China's Sea, Popular Mechanics' Kyle Mizokami noted that this was the first time China tested its weaponry in the area.

The DF-ZF concept, previously referred to by the Pentagon as the WU-14.

The DF-41 booster rocket has a reported maximum operational range of 9,300 kilometers – not only covering the South China Sea, but also the mainland United States. It also has the ability to launch the hypersonic DF-ZF glide vehicle, which can reach speeds of 7,000 miles per hour – the speed of sound is just 768 mph.

2. Tactical Boost Glide Aircraft – United States

DARPA is developing technology similar to the Chinese DF-ZF they say is, "an air-launched, tactical-range hypersonic boost-glide system." An ICBM boosts the glider to hypersonic speeds, then it separates from the rocket and coasts unpowered to its target. The project became known as the Falcon project — a test bed for projects that will enable the U.S. to hit any target in the world within one hour using unmanned hypersonic bombers.

The Hypersonic Technology Vehicle - 2 (DARPA concept)

The Falcon HTV-2's top speed of Mach 20 would allow the United States to strike a target in Syria from the American East Coast in around 27 minutes, analysts say.

3. BrahMos II Missile – Russia and India

The BrahMos II is a cruise missile in joint development between India's Defence Research and Development Organisation and Russia's NPO Mashinostroeyenia. The BrahMos II is expected to have a range of about 180 miles and a top speed of Mach 7. During the cruise stage, the missile will be propelled by an air-breathing scramjet engine using a classified fuel formula to help sustain its top speed.

Indian Defence Ministry

As of March the BrahMos II has been undergoing tests in Russia. Military planners say it is intended as a conventional missile without a nuclear payload and is expected to be aboard Russian ships as early as 2019.

4. X-51 Waverider – United States

Jointly developed by Boeing and the Air Force, the X-51 WaveRider project is another research vehicle designed to test technology for the so-called "High-Speed Strike Weapon," which is intended to be in military service by 2020.

Unlike the Falcon HTV-2, the HSSW is intended to cruise at only Mach 5, have a maximum range of 600 nautical miles, and be launched by F-35 or B-2 aircraft.

Powered by a Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne SJY61 scramjet engine, the X-51 is designed to ride on its own shockwave. Here, the X-51A was uploaded to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base on July 17, 2009.

The most successful WaveRider test so far hit Mach 5.1 for 210 seconds (short of the 300-second goal). It was enough to consider that phase of testing a success and advance to the next stages of development.

5. DF-21D – China

The DF-21D is a medium-range ballistic missile — sometimes referred to in defense industry circles as China's "Carrier Killer." The Dong-Feng 21 is considered an anti-ship missile, and a critical component to China's plans to control the South China Sea. It's a land-based, nuclear-capable missile that can fly at speeds of Mach 10, and uses a drone to help acquire its targets. Many think the DF-21 is designed to weaken the U.S. ability to project power with aircraft carriers.

Writing for the National Interest, Harry J. Kazianis wrote that the missiles are likely already deployed around China, and have been since at least 2010. As for their ability to knock out an aircraft carrier, Kazianis quoted defense expert Roger Cliff, who remarked that while the U.S. Navy has never had to defend itself against such a weapon, China has no experience using one, either.
GEAR & TECH

6 of the most notable pre-M16 military guns

Throughout history, the U.S. Military has used a wide variety of guns to win its battles. Prior to the M16, there were several weapons used across the service throughout some of the most devastating wars the world has ever seen.

Here are some of those weapons:

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
International

China and the US could end up in a war – here's what would happen

It's unlikely that the U.S.-China trade dispute is going to escalate to a full-scale war any time soon — but it's not impossible. Neither side is inclined to go to war with the other, but a war of that scale is what both plan to fight. All it would take is one bungled crisis, one itchy trigger finger, one malfunctioning automated defense system and the entire region could become a war zone.

Keep reading... Show less
Lists

Here are the best military photos for the week of April 20th

The military is always evolving and new things happen every day. With each changes comes a new set of challenges and new opportunities to succeed. Thankfully, there are many talented photographers in the community that capture these struggles and triumphs.

Keep reading... Show less
History

5 ways troops accidentally 'blue falcon' the rest of the platoon

Every now and then, the pricks known as 'Blue Falcons' come and ruin things for everyone else. They break the rules and make everyone else suffer. They rat out their brothers- and sisters-in-arms. They even damage the reputation of others to make themselves look better.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

Why I'm thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

Look, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is really lighting my fires when it comes to their female superheroes.

When Marvel Studios announced they would be bringing Captain Marvel to the big screen, I was thrilled. I was also immediately invested and my expectations shot through the roof.

Keep reading... Show less
History

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

If you pay attention, you might sometimes see long, cigar-shaped pods firmly attached to the undersides of classic fighter and attack aircraft, sometimes with unit markings on them.

Known as "drop tanks," these simple devices extend the range of the aircraft they're hooked up to by carrying extra usable fuel. Back during World War II, however, attack pilots found a secondary use for drop tanks as improvised bombs, used to bombard enemy ground positions.

Keep reading... Show less

The hilarious ways Chinese police are combating jaywalkers

China is so desperate to stop jaywalkers it has turned to spraying them with water.

In Daye, in the central Hubei province, one pedestrian crossing has had a number of bright yellow bollards installed that spray wayward pedestrians' feet with water mist.

Keep reading... Show less