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Need For Speed: US Begins Developing Hypersonic Weapons That Can Out-Do Missile Defense Systems

A US hypersonic weapons complex now under construction will provide full lifecycle production for a new class of projectiles with the speed needed to defeat defensive systems, Northrop Grumman said on Tuesday.

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“The new 60,000 square foot facility will feature state-of-the-art production technology and will implement digital engineering best practices that will result in increased agility and the ability to respond to changes in technology or customer mission needs quickly,” Northrop Grumman said in a press release.

Construction of the facility in the US state of Maryland is expected to finish by 2023, the release said.

The United States recently prioritized the development of hypersonic weapons following successful tests of missiles using the technology by both Russia and China.

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Earlier, as the EurAsian Times reported, the US has been planning to accelerate its deployment of hypersonic weapons, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike White had stated.

In 2020, the US Congressional Research Service announced that the US armed forces are working in three areas related to hypersonic weapons: the conventional prompt strike, the long-range hypersonic weapon and the air-launched rapid response weapon.

“Very recently, the budget dropped for ’22 and the budget dropped for ’22 is a very important statement from the department about the importance of hypersonics and the department’s decision to fund our accelerated fielding strategy, when they are both on the offensive side, and move forward to accelerate our defensive posture as well, so we’ve got strong commitment in the new administration for our strategy and moving forward to really rapidly mature and deliver hypersonic-based capabilities,” White said during a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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Hypersonic weapons travel between five and 27 times the speed of sound, giving military commanders a wider array of options and capabilities while putting the targeted side at a disadvantage because of the shrinking response time and the great difficulty to intercept such missiles.

The US has made the development of hypersonic missiles a priority after Russia and China developed these kinds of lethal weapons.

File Image: Russian Tsirkon Hypersonic Missile

Russian Hypersonic Missiles

State tests of Russia’s Zircon (Tsirkon) hypersonic cruise missile are expected to start before the end of July with test firing from the Russian Northern Fleet’s frigate of Project 22350, Admiral of the Soviet Union Fleet Gorshkov, a defense industry source told Sputnik.

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“Before the end of this month, as part of the starting state tests of the shipborne missile system with the Zircon hypersonic missile, firing will be carried out at land and sea targets from the Admiral Gorshkov frigate,” the source said.

In March, two defense industry sources said that the Zircon missile was going to be test-fired from Admiral Gorshkov this summer. Another source said that Russia was going to complete Zircon tests for surface ships by the end of this summer, while state tests of the missile system for both surface and underwater launches were expected to be finished by the end of 2021.

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In January, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexey Krivoruchko said that state tests of the hypersonic Zircon missile were going to culminate in 2021 with submarine launches, opening the way for serial production for the Russian Navy in 2022.

A defense industry source told Sputnik in January that the first salvo launch of the Zircon missile was expected to be carried out from the Admiral Gorshkov frigate by the end of 2021.

In 2020, three Zircon test launches were carried out from the Admiral Gorshkov frigate, two of them hitting sea targets and one striking a ground target.

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