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Hypersonic Missiles: What Are They?

By Bill Carson  |  June 21, 2023

Since their development, hypersonic missiles have gained significant attention, leading to a growing interest infurther research and development for them. These missiles set themselves apart from conventional weaponry as they boast significant speed and maneuvering capabilities, making them difficult to track.

Modern hypersonic weapons come in two different categories: hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles. The glide vehicles are missiles launched into the atmosphere but which then separate from their rocket boosters and glide at hypersonic speeds. Hypersonic cruise missiles, meanwhile, are powered throughout their flight and are typically flown at lower altitudes while maintaining high speeds.

Hypersonic missiles pose a considerable threat for defense and security due to their unique capabilities and characteristics. Let’s examine some more of their attributes below.

The History Behind Hypersonic Missiles

It was in the 1940s that the first human-made objects were able to reach Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. Starting in 1944, German V-2 rockets reached Mach 4.3 when rising and then became hypersonic during descent, reaching Mach 5 as they hit targets in England. Later, in 1949, a rocket launch called Bumper 5 used a V-2 rocket which let the rocket reach a speed of Mach 6.7.

By 1980, there was a development of “lifting body” vehicles, which allowed the body of a plane to generate lift at hypersonic speeds. More recently in July 2022, DARPA successfully launched an operational fires missile using artillery controls. This program utilized a hypersonic missile that could be fired from standard trucks, hitting targets at a speed that can’t be reached by aircraft.

Applications of Hypersonic Missiles

Hypersonic missiles offer unique capabilities, giving anyone who utilizes them an advantage. Some benefits of hypersonic missiles include:

  • Strategic attacks – Hypersonic missiles can be used for tactical strikes against infrastructure and military installations.
  • Global strikes – These missiles can strike anywhere on the globe due to their rapid, long-range precision capabilities. This is useful for any last-minute scenarios where action is necessary and time is critical.
  • Deterrence – Utilizing a hypersonic missile can serve as a deterrent against potential rivals. Their ability to maneuver and launch attacks readily can create a sense of uncertainty that deters enemy action.
  • Speed – Hypersonic missiles have an advantage over traditional weaponry due to their speed and maneuverability. With these qualities, they can be used to strike time-sensitive targets with great precision.
  • Suppression of enemy air defenses – By being able to quickly penetrate anti-aircraft systems, these missiles are able to disable radar or other components included in the air defense network.
  • Anti-ship warfare – With their speed and evasive capabilities, hypersonic missiles are hard to defend against. That’s why they can be used to target enemy vessels, including submarines or aircraft carriers.
  • Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) – These weapons can serve as ISR platforms by carrying advanced sensors and equipment. They can then collect real-time intelligence, monitor activities of enemies, and provide situational awareness.

As you can see, hypersonic missiles supply a wide range of capabilities, making them a key element of national defense.

Hypersonic Missile Part Features

Having the correct components, especially in warfare, is vital to ensuring tasks are carried out as designed. Hypersonic missile parts have been specifically engineered to overcome some of the challenges typically faced during flight to facilitate the best results.

Some examples of hypersonic missile parts include:

  • Guidance system – These systems allow missiles to accurately navigate following launch and hit their targets. They include sensors as well as advanced algorithms for tracking and target acquisition.
  • Warhead – This is the payload carried by a hypersonic missile and is responsible for bringing the destructive force to the target.
  • Airframe – Another key hypersonic missile part is the airframe, which is made of advanced materials such as carbon composites or high-temperature alloys. This helps the missile withstand any extreme heat generated during flight.
  • Thermal protection system – Given the high amount of heat a hypersonic missile encounters, it requires robust thermal protection systems to prevent any damage.

Want to Learn More?

Our team at Re:Build Cutting Dynamics wants to ensure that all your questions regarding Patriot missile systems, our product line, and beyond have been answered. With that in mind, feel free to contact us today with any questions you may have, as we look forward to assisting you.