JUST IN: Army Pushing Industry to Invest in Hypersonics Manufacturing Capabilities
Defense contractors need to invest some of their own money to make sure they are ready to produce hypersonic and counter-hypersonic systems in large quantities when the technology matures, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Jan. 10.
Hypersonic missiles — and the means to defend against them — are the Pentagon’s No. 1 research-and-development priority. It has been pumping large sums of money into a variety of efforts.
The Army is teaming with the other services to advance the technology, with the hopes of fielding systems in the early- to mid-2020s.
“We have a joint partnership across the entire Department of Defense between the Navy, Air Force and Missile Defense Agency” for R&D, McCarthy said during remarks at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. “We're investing billions of dollars across this future years defense plan … [and] looking at even increasing the profile over the next couple budgets.”
However, missile manufacturers and other suppliers need to do more to boost their manufacturing capability, McCarthy said.
“What we need to see is industry step up,” he said. “They've got to come forward and … first and foremost, invest the time to work with our national lab network to understand how we've come forward with these technologies. But they're going to have to make investments to be able to produce these at scale.”
Hypersonic weapons — which will travel at speeds of Mach 5 or faster — will be challenging for missile defenses because of their quickness and enhanced maneuverability. McCarthy said they are a game-changing capability with offensive and defensive implications for the world’s militaries.
The United States could deploy these systems in the Indo-Pacific region to deter China and more effectively wage war in the event of a conflict, he noted. The Senkaku or Ryukyu Islands or the South China Sea are potential areas where they could be based.
“Because of the extraordinary speed and lethality of that capability, … from an offensive standpoint it creates dilemmas that would disrupt any [adversary’s] decision cycle,” he said.
Great power competitors China and Russia are developing their own hypersonic missiles. To defend against such weapons, advanced interceptors and other hardware aren’t the only critical tools, McCarthy noted. Robust sensing and command-and-control technologies are also essential.
“Just how fast can you find [the enemy missile] and then cue something to kill it?” he said.
Artificial intelligence will likely play a role in counter-hypersonic systems because the operational timelines will be so short, he said.
“The dilemma is that if you don't have … artificial intelligence-like capabilities, because of the speed at which the munition can travel you can't find it, sense it or shoot it because it will be there within a couple of minutes,” McCarthy said. “This is an extraordinary capability that a lot of countries are investing enormous national resources against, and it's going to change warfare.”