The Race to Go Fast

Like it or not, the US is in a “hypersonic race” with other countries to develop a Mach 5-plus attack system, former Air Force chief historian Richard Hallion said Wednesday during a presentation sponsored by AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies in Arlington, Va. Countries with both the technological savvy and interest in building a hypersonic vehicle include Russia, China, Iran, Germany, Australia, India, and Japan, Hallion said. A hypersonic weapon would be an excellent equalizer to blunt many US strengths in other forms of warfare, he said. Appearing with Hallion, former Air Force chief scientist Mark Lewis said the recent test of the X-51A scramjet-powered research vehicle make clear that hypersonic technology isn’t out of the reach of countries with decent academic and industrial capabilities. He noted that most of the recent papers he’s seen on hypersonics come from China, where researchers have “an intimate knowledge of [Western] literature” on the subject. Lewis also said he’s been approached by Iranians who want to come study hypersonics in the US. (See the new Mitchell Paper, Hypersonic Power Projection)