The U.S. Army kept details of the LRHW quiet for years, only recently revealing its range. (Internet)
Hypersonic weapons have become a new armament that China, the United States, Russia and other major powers are competing to develop. The U.S. Army has revealed for the first time that it has a long-range hypersonic missile weapon (LRHW) under development with a range of more than 2,775 kilometers. Reports indicate that if the PLA attacks Taiwan by force, the LRHW will be able to launch from the U.S. base in Guam and directly attack the PLA 2,500 kilometers away to help Taiwan “break the siege.
The U.S. military news site Breaking Defense recently reported that a spokesman for the U.S. Army, which has remained silent on the details of the LRHW for years, revealed for the first time that the LRHW has a range of well over 2,775 kilometers. According to the report, the U.S. military’s top brass coordinated for the hypersonic program before the first release of LRHW-related data.
The U.S. Army is currently equipped with the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) short-range ballistic missile with a range of only 300 kilometers.
The report pointed out that the long range of the LRHW, representing the Taiwan Strait in the event of conflict, the PLA attack Taiwan, the United States Asia-Pacific allies and the United States refused to use each other’s territory or airspace, the U.S. Army can be 2,500 kilometers away from Taiwan in Guam to launch LRHW, attacking the PLA surrounded Taipei.
The report also said that the U.S. Navy developed hypersonic missiles also use the same core missile and boost glide carrier, if “the Army’s LRHW range can reach 2,775 kilometers, the Navy certainly can.
The report explains that compared to the Army’s vehicle-based launchers, the Navy’s ship-based launchers and strategic bombers are undoubtedly more mobile and can be launched in international waters and airspace without regard to allied attitudes; however, the advantage of land-based launchers is that they are cheaper and can use terrain to evade adversary attacks, which cannot be achieved in the sea and air. Naval warships, on the other hand, have the ability to roam around at sea and are significantly more mobile than land-based missiles.
According to information previously released by the U.S. military giant Lockheed Martin, the complete LRHW missile system is composed of a large rocket booster and an unpowered hypersonic boost glide vehicle. The rocket is used to lift the conical glide vehicle to its desired speed and altitude, and then the vehicle separates from the booster and races to the target at hypersonic speeds.
The vehicle is a modified 40-ton M870 panel vehicle with a four-component vertical launch system (TEL), with a separate command vehicle in charge of launch control.
The hypersonic boost glide vehicle is highly maneuverable, capable of launching outside the range of enemy air defense and anti-missile systems, and can strike any target worldwide within minutes. The combination of speed and maneuverability makes it difficult for adversaries to detect and track these weapons, let alone attempt a defensive intercept, making it an ideal option for striking heavily defended, high-value enemy targets.
The U.S. Army aims to acquire the first prototype of a long-range hypersonic weapon by fiscal year 2023.
For its part, the U.S. Air Force announced last year that it was abandoning its Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) program in favor of the AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), a hypersonic missile that uses a wedge-shaped boosted glide vehicle.
The United States lags behind China and Russia in hypersonic weapon development. China has conducted its first hypersonic missile test in 2014, while Russia conducted its first hypersonic glide vehicle test in 2016.
Russia has been equipped with air-launched hypersonic missiles for years. (Internet)
The Communist Party of China has demonstrated hypersonic glide carriers for its Dongfeng-17 ballistic missile in a military parade in 2019, the 70th year of its political establishment, which is estimated to have a top speed of 10 times the speed of sound. In 2018, Russia was equipped with the air-launched Dagger hypersonic missile, which reportedly reaches 10 times the speed of sound and has a range of 2,000 kilometers. In addition, Russia is preparing to deploy the Zircon series of hypersonic anti-ship missiles with a range of about 1,000 kilometers at 9 times the speed of sound in 2022.
China is ahead of the United States in the development of hypersonic weapons and missile speed. (File photo)
The U.S. LRHW is estimated to be only 5 times the speed of sound.