Video Above: B-1B Hypersonic Weapons Bay
“Preserve the advantage,” were words used by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov when talking about his country’s position in the global hypersonic weapons arms race which continues to unfold at lightning speed.
Russian Hypersonic Weapons
Is Russia number one in hypersonic weapons? Borisov says “yes,” according to a report by Russia’s TASS news agency.
"We have been trying to remain on par or chase the leading weapon designs of Western states for years, and, for the first time in all this time, we dashed ahead in the development of hypersonic weapons and weapons on new physical principles, which use new types of engines — compact low-power nuclear power plants. Right now, we have a serious advantage in this regard over Western states, and we will try to preserve this advantage," Borisov said.
Many of Russia’s hypersonic weapons have been extensively written about by the Russian media as well as international press, as they have been highlighted regularly by Russian leaders. For example, Russia is known to be testing a submarine-launched hypersonic cruise missile called 3M22 Zircon. Certainly hypersonic attack from the ocean introduces an entirely new sphere of attack positions. Something similar could be said of Russia’s bomber-launched Hypersonic weapon called the Kinzhal.
"[Russian weapons] comply with the main weapon and military vehicles development trends, as they move towards precision weapons, unmanned systems, and robotization," Borisov added.
U.S. Hypersonic Weapons
While specifics regarding performance parameters, range, speed, maneuverability and guidance technology of Russian hypersonic weapons are likely difficult to determine, continued Russian superiority in the realm of Hypersonics is by no means a certainty.
The U.S. continues to make massive and rapid progress in its development of new Hypersonic weapons.
Initial configurations include plans to deploy a missile battery of four launchers and a battery operations center. Interestingly, the LRHW is a joint Army-Navy weapon which uses a common warhead projectile for ground and maritime attack. Each launcher contains two hypersonic missiles, indicating a total of eight LRHWs in a battery.
“Our all up round is a 34-inch booster which will be common between the Army and the Navy. We will shoot exactly the same thing the Navy shoots out of a sub or ship,” Robert Strider, Deputy, Army Hypersonic Project Office, told an audience Aug. 11 at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville Ala.,
Should a battery able to fire eight LRHWs arrive in a sensitive forward location, with an ability to quickly power up and launch from changing locations on a mobile launcher, would put enemy forces, command and control, air defenses and possibly even ships at sea at great risk of destruction.
What much of this amounts to is simply that, should it be true that Russia does in fact maintain an advantage at the moment, the gap may be closing.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.