Russian and Chinese advancements in hypersonic weaponry are driving the US military to field a viable hypersonic strike weapon within the next couple of years.
The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly developing a common boost-glide vehicle to clear the way for each of these services to bring American hypersonic weaponry to the battlefield in the near future.
For the Army, that’s the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). The Air Force is building the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) and the Navy is pursuing its Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon, The Drive reported Oct. 11, 2018, citing an Aviation Week report. There is the possibility these systems could be deployed as early as 2021.
“There is a very aggressive timeline for testing and demonstrating the capability,” Col. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires cross-functional team, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC on Oct. 10, 2018. The progress already made “is a result of several months of cooperation between all three services to collaborate on a common hypersonic glide body.”
The Navy is responsible for designing the boost-glide vehicle, as the fleet faces the greatest integration challenges due to the spacial limitations of the firing platforms like ballistic missile submarines, the colonel explained.
U.S. Army Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers from the 1-426 Field Artillery Battery operate an M109A6 Paladin Howitzer at at Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 18, 2018
(US Army photo by Spc. John Russell)
“Everybody’s moving in the same direction,” he added, further commenting, “The Army can get there the fastest. It will be in the field, manned by soldiers, and create the deterrent effect that we are looking for.”
As the boost-glide vehicle is unpowered, each service will develop its own booster technology for launching the relevant weapons, which fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The goal for the Army’s AHW is for it to travel at sustained speeds of Mach 8, giving it the ability to cover 3,700 miles in just 35 minutes, The Drive reported.
The Air Force has already awarded two hypersonic weapons contracts in 2018, and the Navy just awarded one in October 2018. The Army’s LRPF CFT is focusing on producing a long-range hypersonic weapon, among other weapons, to devastate hardened strategic targets defended by integrated air defense systems.
The US military’s intense push for hypersonic warfighting technology comes as the Russians and Chinese make significant strides with this technology. Hypersonic weapons are game-changers, as their incredible speeds and ability to maneuver at those speeds make them invulnerable to modern air and missile defense systems, making them, in the simplest of terms, weaponry that can not be stopped.
Russia is expected to field its nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle in 2019, and China has conducted numerous tests of various hypersonic glide vehicles and aircraft, most recently in early August 2018, when China tested its Xingkong-2 hypersonic experimental waverider, which some military experts suspected could be weaponized as a high-speed strike platform.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.