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Hypersonic weapons can travel at a speed of at least five times the speed of sound, around 3,800 miles per hour. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall says he is not satisfied with the pace of development for those hypersonic missiles and says there is some progress on technology, but he wants it to be even better.

  • Mark Lewis, executive director of the Emerging Technologies Institute at the National Defense Industrial Association and former director of defense research and engineering at the Pentagon, said Chinese and Russian development of hypersonic weapons has sparked concern, but investing in them is important regardless as they are a critical capability for the future.
  • Lewis said the technology exists but politics and bureaucracy have stood in the way of producing hypersonic weapons systems at scale.
  • Lewis said hypersonics have a lot of support from Congress; he said they cost about twice as much as conventional cruise missiles but are significantly more powerful.
  • Lewis also commented on the Defense Department’s and NASA’s refocusing on nuclear-powered space capabilities, stating that nuclear thermal rockets allow for higher thrust and an ability to quickly maneuver away from attacks in space.
  • Lewis said the United States can build nuclear reactors that survive very bad launch accidents but do not spread radioactive material.

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