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(Photo from U.S. Department of Defense)

Hypersonic missiles travel at least five times the speed of sound and are a growing investment for the United States military. The Army and Navy are both advancing their programs and working together to maintain a decisive edge against adversaries.

  • Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood, director of hypersonics, directed energy, space and rapid acquisition for the U.S. Army, said hypersonic weapons systems will help position the Army for success on the battlefield with the pace, distance and speed of future warfare.
  • Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, director for Strategic Systems Programs for the U.S. Navy, said it is about bringing capability to the high-end fight, ensuring access to certain locations and holding high-level strategic targets at risk.
  • Thurgood and Wolfe agreed that despite China’s progress on hypersonics, the focus is not on keeping up with China or Russia but on giving warfighters advanced capabilities necessary for competing in the battle space.
  • They said the Army and Navy decided early to work together with the same missile system (and different launch platforms); Thurgood said he is “really fortunate” to have Wolfe as a partner.
  • Wolfe said the Navy’s goal is to get to the stealthy, new DDG-1000-class destroyer by fiscal year 2025 and the Virginia-class submarine in around 2028.
  • He said he is confident the government, military and contracting workforce can meet the unique challenges presented by launching hypersonic missiles from submarines and said the underwater launch test facility is absolutely critical.
  • Thurgood said the Army will move the ground version of hypersonic weapons by C-17s and said the ability to move in the sea and air provides many opportunities for combatant commanders to succeed.
  • He said the Army will have operational capability by the end of 2023, as required.
  • The biggest challenges are “getting past service parochialism” and building a mature industrial base, Thurgood said.
  • Wolfe said they are ramping up to produce at scale and continually look for opportunities to reduce costs.
  • Thurgood said the Defense Department and industry have to invest in the industrial base and build infrastructure around the weapons system, which takes time.
  • He said every time they do a test flight, they also look at it from the defensive side and that Vice Adm. Jon Hill, director of the Missile Defense Agency, is responsible for defensive infrastructure.
  • Thurgood said the country should duplicate the partnership model and push aside traditional bureaucracy and stovepipes, because the sum is greater than the individual parts.

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