Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will push the nation’s top defense companies to speed their development of hypersonic weapons in a high-level meeting next week.
The United States has “a lot of catching up to do very quickly,” US Space Force Gen. David Thompson told CNN, after weapons tests by China and Russia took US national security officials by surprise in recent months — and after the American military suffered two catastrophic test failures in 2021.
The highly maneuverable weapons fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound — posing a dangerous threat to missile defense systems.
The Pentagon’s Virtual Meeting, set for Feb. 3, aims to “light a fire underneath the entire hypersonic industry,” according to executives at two of the dozen defense contractors — including Boeing, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman — that have been invited to attend.
In October, American military officials sounded the alarm after China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, warning that the Chinese Communist Party will soon surpass American military capability.
“I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the time. “But I think it’s very close to that.”
North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a hypersonic glide vehicle on Jan. 11 — a launch that spurred airports across the western United States to temporarily halt flights.