Hypersonic weapons can break through the most advanced air defenses and get inside the military decision-making cycle, providing a crucial warfighting advantage, according to a new study from AFA’s Mitchell Institute. With China and Russia working intensely to field hypersonic weapons, “it is well past time for the US military to get serious about hypersonic weapons.” said retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute, in introducing the study Hypersonic Weapons and US National Security: A 21st Century Breakthrough. The theme of the study was endorsed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who championed an expansion of the Utah Test and Training Range to better support advanced weapons testing, and by Rep. Steve Knight (R-Calif.), who has sponsored legislation to create a Hypersonic Research Council to push development of the breakthrough technology. The study was? co-authored by retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Curtis Bedke, whose career included leadership in advanced aerospace technology, and Richard Hallion, an aerospace historian and analyst. It was presented by Bedke at a Capitol Hill briefing Tuesday. Noting the research already done by the Air Force, NASA, and DARPA to demonstrate hypersonic flight, Bedke said,“the path forward is not wild and unaffordable.” (See also Stick with Waverider.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.