By The Financial District
Putin's Problem-Ridden Hypersonic Missile All Hype
You can’t spell “hypersonic” without “hype,” and right now, the Mach 5 weapons system is an obsession of the world’s largest militaries.
Photo Insert: The biggest dose of reality is that the technology still hasn’t found a way to manage the immense amount of heat produced by a system traveling in excess of Mach 5.
China tested a Mach 5 weapon back in 2021 and Russia has been talking about the weapons since 2018, when it produced a sizzle reel of one hypersonic, the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, blowing up Florida, Darren Orf reported for Popular Mechanics.
The US has around 70 efforts to develop hypersonic technologies including bombers, missiles, and the engines to power them.
Just this week, Vladimir Putin announced imminent plans to test his frigate-launched Zircon hypersonic missile, which can reach speeds of Mach 9. Putin took part in the farewell ceremony of the Admiral Gorshkov frigate back in January, and the ship will launch the missile during a training exercise with South Africa and China later this month.
Russia says it’ll be “the first-ever [launch] during an event of this kind,” though the launch is likely a show of force to the West more than anything. While an “unstoppable” Russian missile would certainly be a problem for the US and with most of Europe), Putin might be overselling the weapon’s capabilities.
In 2021, Nikolai Yevmenov, commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, told a Russian news site that the weapon still had problems—and some of those problems are likely highlighted in a new report by the US Congressional Budget Office.
While the 72-page report did find that hypersonic missiles “have the speed to be useful in the early stages of a conflict,” the report also threw some cold water on the red-hot hype surrounding hypersonic technology.
The biggest dose of reality is that the technology still hasn’t found a way to manage the immense amount of heat produced by a system traveling in excess of Mach 5.
From the report: “Shielding hypersonic missiles’ sensitive electronics, understanding how various materials perform, and predicting aerodynamics at sustained temperatures as high as 3,000° Fahrenheit require extensive flight testing. Tests are ongoing, but failures in recent years have delayed progress.”
The second big bummer is cost. While some 300 ground- or sea-launched, intermediate-range ballistic missiles cost $13.4 billion, the same number of hypersonic missiles would cost closer to $18 billion.
There is no guarantee that these missiles can avoid being hit by shorter, but more efficient missile defenses, or laser weapons.
WEEKLY FEATURE : MVP Group Keeps Lights On During Pandemic