The Rise of Hypersonic Weapons

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A hypersonic missile launched from mainland China could strike a U.S. carrier group located anywhere in the South China Sea in under 20 minutes. That’s a hypothetical right now, but hypersonics are poised to be the next big thing in defense technology. A hypersonic weapon is any projectile that is able to achieve and sustain speeds at or above Mach 5, which is to say, five times the speed of sound. Some weapons, like electromagnetic railguns, can fire munitions at these speeds – but the primary focus of current research efforts is the creation of hypersonic missiles.

Cruise missile type hypersonic weapons could be fired from planes or ships and would be relatively cheap, whereas hypersonic glide vehicles are the final stage of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which makes it both effective and accurate at very long ranges. Both types would be extremely fast and maneuverable, which makes them very difficult to intercept.

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