Hypersonic missiles will be deployed across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, not as “niche” weapons but as a broad new capability, according to DoD’s two top officials charged with managing department wide development efforts.
“It’s not going to be one or two hypersonic weapons,” Mark Lewis, director of modernization at DoD’s Research and Engineering office headed by Mike Griffin, told reporters here today. “Hypersonics isn’t a single thing. It’s a range of capabilities. It’s intermediate range. It’s long range. It’s things coming off of ships. It’s things coming off of trucks. It’s things coming off the wings of airplanes and out of bomb bays.”
Lewis said the Pentagon’s focus this year on hypersonic weapons — weapons that can fly faster than Mach 5 — will be on transitioning from science and technology development work to prototype weapons that can be used in the field by all of the services.
Hypersonic weapons, and the technologies to counter them, are one of 11 cross-cutting modernization priorities that Lewis is managing. The Army, Navy, Air Force and DARPA all have at least one, if not more, efforts to build hypersonic missile capabilities. The Missile Defense Agency and the Space Development Agency (both of which fall under Griffin’s oversight) are working on technologies to detect and target enemy hypersonic missiles.
“I don’t know of any other part of the modernization portfolio where I see such close coordination between the services and the agencies,” said Lewis.
For example, DARPA’s Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapons Concept (HAWC) — an air-breathing cruise missile — is first going transition to the Air Force, said Mike White, Lewis’s assistant director for hypersonics. “But we’re also looking at some other configurations that have a broader range of capabilities.” Indeed, Sydney reported way back in 2018 that DARPA has been hoping to interest the Navy in the concept as well.