The history of war shows that speed is a key indicator to measure the performance of weapons and equipment, and it is also an important fulcrum for opening the door to victory. Hypersonic weapons combine ultra-high-speed, high damage, and high defense penetration capabilities. They have become another strategic commanding height in aerospace military competition among major powers, and have the potential to change the “rules of the game of war.”

In recent years, the world’s military powers have rushed to develop hypersonic weapons. The U.S. has invested its resources at the highest level in the past 20 years. Senior officials of the U.S. Department of Defense have publicly stated: “Hyperonic and anti-hypersonic weapons are one of the highest priorities of the U.S. Department of Defense’s technological modernization.” Russia secretly exerted its efforts and did not move. The “Pioneer”, “Zircon” and “Dagger” three types of hypersonic weapons of land, sea, and air were sensibly revealed. In addition, France, Australia, India, and other countries have also stepped up their deployment. Now that the world has entered the threshold of the era of intelligence, what are the advantages of hypersonic weapons?

The speed advantage realizes “slow with fast”. The most noticeable advantage of hypersonic weapons is “fast”. Their maneuvering speeds greater than Mach 5 can greatly change the relationship between time and space and truly bring war into the era of “spike”. The Russian air-launched hypersonic missile “Dagger” has a maximum flight speed of about Mach 10 and a range of 2,000 kilometers. Its speed greatly shortens the detection, tracking, and response time of the opponent’s land-based and airborne sensors. Studies have shown that when the flight speed reaches Mach 5 or more, the penetration probability of 97% or more can be achieved by relying on speed alone, which can effectively penetrate various existing combat defense systems. The value of “fast” does not stop there. It also makes maneuvering elements more coupled with information elements and decision-making elements, promotes the full acceleration of the OODA kill chain cycle, and fully releases the advantages of information and decision-making efficiency, thereby forming a “speed control slow” Dimensionality reduction strike effect.

Mechanism advantage realizes “exponential damage”. The damage of traditional ammunition is usually based on the conversion and release of chemical energy. In actual combat, the damage ability is restricted by various factors such as the means of delivery, and it is difficult to damage solid or underground targets. The kinetic energy theorem in physics tells us that the kinetic energy of an object is proportional to its mass and also proportional to the square of its velocity. When the aircraft or missile reaches hypersonic speed, one result is that the kinetic energy of the weapon will be exponentially multiplied, thereby greatly improving the damage effectiveness of the warhead. Studies have shown that the impact kinetic energy of a 1.5 kg hypersonic missile warhead is enough to cause a bridge to collapse. If a penetration warhead is carried, the penetration depth of a hypersonic weapon into reinforced concrete can reach more than ten meters, and it can hit solid targets such as a command center buried deep underground. Obviously, this ultra-high-speed kinetic energy damage efficiency is fully released and can form an “exponential damage” strike effect.

The agile advantage realizes “change due to the enemy”. The hypersonic vehicle has a large payload and can undertake multiple tasks. It can at least be responsible for long-range, rapid and precise strikes on a global scale, as well as strategic and tactical reconnaissance and projection. At the same time, the excellent combat capability of hypersonic weapons can be “change” on the basis of “fast”, that is, to change the maneuvering trajectory. This ability to “change due to the enemy” gives hypersonic weapons extremely strong combat agility. It can not only “slam”, by changing the maneuvering trajectory, creating uncertainty, making the enemy unable to defend, and easily penetrate the defense; it can also “fight”, having both a broad-spectrum strike capability against fixed targets and time-sensitive targets, thereby reducing the ballistic The “fastness” of missiles and the “change” of cruise missiles are perfectly combined, making them the most powerful killer after nuclear weapons.

Use advantages to achieve “deterrence and fight.” Air and space assault weapons with hypersonic weapons as the core have the strategic advantage of preemptive strikes and will most likely constitute a new strategic deterrent capability. On the macro level, it will affect the balance of strategic forces, which in turn affects their strategic intentions and determination; on the micro-level, it will affect the opponent’s force layout, leading to forced adjustments in the deployment of combat forces. Moreover, as a conventional rapid strike system, it has stronger combat effectiveness and greater damage. Since nuclear weapons do not cause huge collateral damage, it does not have to bear too much public opinion and moral pressure, and it can also avoid the political risk of nuclear weapons use. And high threshold. This has created a hypersonic weapon with both strong deterrence and great usability, giving it a wealth of strategic application functions.

The cost advantage realizes “asymmetric checks and balances.” The cost advantage is not only reflected in the high-cost performance, but also in the asymmetric offset against the opponent. As a type of high-tech weapon, hypersonic weapons cost a lot of money from pre-research to system construction, but compared to the development and construction of complex missile defense systems, the cost is only a fraction of a fraction. The subversive combat capability of hypersonic weapons puts the current missile defense system useless. In fact, it is an announcement that the capital investment used to develop and build air defense and anti-missile systems has been “floating”, plus it effectively responds to hypersonic weapons It had to invest huge sums of money in the research and development of new defense systems. This asymmetric offset gave hypersonic weapons a huge cost advantage. It is precise because of this that Russia uses hypersonic weapons as an asymmetric counterbalance to the United States, accelerating the installation and deployment, in order to form an asymmetric offset to the US multi-type missile defense system.

Original Article Published on PLA Daily