The U.S. is pushing the development of hypersonic missiles to catch up with Russia, which has claimed that its hypersonic missiles travel at Mach 27 or 27 times the speed of sound, and China, which embarked on its own program using what experts claimed were the research and scientific findings published in the U.S. three years ago.

“Our ultimate goal is, simply, we want to dominate future battlefields,” Mark Lewis, the Pentagon’s director of defense research and engineering for modernization, told reporters in March. “By almost any metric that I can construct, China is certainly moving out ahead of us,” he told Associated Press (AP) on May 19, 2020. “In large measure, that’s because we did their homework for them.” Basic research in this field was published by the U.S. years ago, “and then we kind of took our foot off the gas.”

“Russia last December said its first hypersonic missile unit had become operational. It is the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which Moscow says can fly at Mach 27, or 27 times faster than the speed of sound, and could make sharp maneuvers to bypass missile defenses. It has been fitted to existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles, and in the future could be fitted to the more powerful Sarmat ICBM, which is still in development,” the AP report added.

U.S. President Trump calls the hypersonic missiles being developed by the U.S. as “super-duper missiles” that can fly several times better than current U.S. missiles that can fly only at Mach 5. The Pentagon is pursuing two main types of hypersonic weapons. One, called a hypersonic glide vehicle, is launched from a rocket. It then glides to a target, maneuvering at high speed to evade interception. The other is sometimes referred to as a hypersonic cruise missile. Capable of being launched from a fighter jet or bomber, it would be powered by a supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, enabling the missile to fly and maneuver at lower altitudes. On March 19, the Pentagon flight-tested a hypersonic glide vehicle at its Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. It deemed the test a success and “a major milestone towards the department’s goal of fielding hypersonic warfighting capabilities in the early- to mid-2020s.”