JUST IN: Army to Field Hypersonic Weapon in Fall 2023, Secretary Says
The U.S. Army is currently developing its first Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon system, with the first battery to be delivered by fall 2023, said Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth.
In the midst of growing tensions in the Indo-Pacific, the U.S. military continues to prepare for a potential conflict in that region. While she does not believe that a war with China is unavoidable, Wormuth said preparedness is key.
“We all need to be really focused on deterring that possibility,” she said at an Aspen Security Forum panel in Aspen, Colorado, July 20.
“We’ve got to be able to hit targets from very long ranges,” she said. “In addition to our mid-range capability, we’re also developing a long-range hypersonic weapon that will be able to strike targets thousands of miles away that will be very useful in that kind of conflict.”
Wormuth said the Army is developing a lot of new air and missile defense capabilities designed specifically and precisely for a potential conflict in the Indo-Pacific.
“We also have been putting a lot of emphasis on developing long-range precision fires,” she said. “We just had a successful flight test of what we call the mid-range capability, which is either a ground launched SM-6 or Tomahawk missile. Some of the variants can actually hit mobile targets, so we will be able to sink ships from land with a mid-range capability.”
The ground-launched Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon has a 1,750-mile range and can exceed 3,800 mph, according to a March 2023 Congressional Research Service brief. The weapon consists of a missile and glide body designed to travel at the outer edge of the atmosphere beyond the range of air and missile defense systems, according to the brief.
The hypersonic weapon is one of 24 modernization systems the Army intends to have in soldiers’ hands before the end of fiscal year 2023. The brief noted that the program has experienced multiple delays and test cancellations, raising questions whether the Army can meet the fielding target.
The Army’s first Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon system will be part of its 1st Multi-Domain Task Force, or MDTF, the critical centerpiece in operationalizing the Army’s Multi-Domain Operations, or MDO.
In February, the 1st Multi-Domain Task Force long-range fires battalion, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, deployed the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to Cape Canaveral, Florida, during Thunderbolt Strike, a full rehearsal of hypersonic launch capabilities, according to a March 30 Army news report.
The deployment exercised critical command and control linkages between Indo-Pacific Command, Strategic Command, Army Pacific and the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office. Soldiers also conducted training and practice drills with the weapons system in Cape Canaveral.
“Our soldiers processed real missions, with real data, in real time, to produce real effects to learn lessons and generate readiness,” said Brig. Gen. Bernard Harrington, the 1st MDTF commander, in the Army news report. “We’re training the way we will fight, and our soldiers are ready to deploy and employ this critical capability forward.”
Wormuth said the goal is to have the “weapon into the hands of the battery out at JBLM in Washington State by the end of this year.”
“It will be operational and tested at that point,” she added. “It will not be stationed at JBLM, but it will be operational.”