‘Eye-Popping’ Budget Plus-Ups for Hypersonics

By Jon Harper

Concept: Lockheed Martin

The fiscal year 2020 defense budget, passed by Congress in late December, included extra funding for a variety of hypersonic weapon projects that the Pentagon is pursuing to keep pace with great power competitors.

The systems — which will travel at speeds greater than Mach 5 and be highly maneuverable to thwart enemy missile defenses — are the Defense Department’s No. 1 research-and-development priority and have received strong backing from lawmakers. The United States is in a race with China and Russia, which are pursuing their own programs.

In a newsletter, Jim McAleese, founder of McAleese & Associates, said there was a “micro-flurry of hypersonic plus-ups” in the 2020 omnibus appropriations bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law just before Christmas. That includes an “eye-popping” $100 million to support the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office and the stand-up of a consortium of universities to facilitate research-and-development work.

The Army’s long-range hypersonic weapon program received $404 million, a “beefy” plus-up of $130 million, McAleese noted.

About $390 million was appropriated for test-and-evaluation infrastructure for high-tech weapons including an additional $20 million for hypersonic test facilities and $45 million for ground testing in support of the National Defense Strategy, according to McAleese.

The budget also fully funds and provides an additional $145 million to develop a common hypersonic glide body, according to a congressional summary of the legislation.

All of the services are pursuing hypersonics capabilities. The Air Force’s air-launched rapid response weapon, or ARRW, and hypersonic conventional strike weapon, or HCSW, were fully funded to the tune of $576 million. Its aerospace vehicle technologies R&D program received an additional $10 million for “hypersonic vehicle structures,” while the manufacturing technology program received $28 million in plus-ups for hypersonics, McAleese said.

The Navy’s conventional prompt strike missile program received $637 million, which McAleese described as a “modest” $87 million cut.

The technology has strong support from the White House. During a nationally televised address in January about tensions with Iran, Trump bragged about the nation’s missile arsenal, saying “many hypersonic missiles” are under construction. The systems are currently in the R&D phase.

The U.S. military plans to begin fielding the new capabilities in the early- to mid-2020s.

“We’re going to make a lot of them very quickly” once production is ready to be scaled, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told reporters at the Reagan National Defense Forum. “It’s going to take time and effort, but we have a very aggressive investment profile for the next five years.”

The fiscal year 2021 defense budget request, which is expected to be released in February, will include a funding boost for the technology, he noted.

While Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other administration officials are gung-ho on pursuing the new systems, McCarthy said he anticipates hypersonic weapons development in the United States will move ahead regardless of who wins the 2020 presidential election because it has bipartisan support.

“It’s going to be a place that will have a tremendous amount of attention no matter what administration is here a year from now,” he said. “This is a national-level priority.”

Topics: Emerging Technologies

Comments (1)

Re: ‘Eye-Popping’ Budget Plus-Ups for Hypersonics

How big of a "BOOM!" do the USA Hypersonic weapons produce? Has anyone asked or tested that yet?

For the cost of Russian and Chinese Hypersonic missiles and weapons, which many are essentially modified and upgraded Tactical Ballistic Missiles, these produce a HUGE conventional non-NBC BOOM! for a relatively low R&D cost.

One could assume that the USA's Hypersonic missiles cost a lot per unit with the destruction payload no more than that of a 1,000lb Tomahawk cruise missile. Therefore, if hyper-speed is what the USA wants, the USA will get hypersonic speed at a price, but the number of Hypersonic missiles fired will inevitably cost the USA more than one or two fired from the peer nations just due to the large size and the fact that the peer nations' Hypersonics are already modified terror tactical ballistic missiles; they don't need to invent a new wheel like the USA, just reinvent it.
The BOOM radius destruction factor of Hypersonic weapons is useful in holding any adversarial nation at bay for fear of massive retaliation. It's comparable to destroying structures and units on the USA’s side compared to leveling port, cities, and towns on the Russian and Chinese side---the counter-response is skewed due to size and payload.

Krashnovians at 11:52 PM
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