Hypersonic strike weapons, capable of flying speeds in excess of Mach 5, are a key aspect of the long-range precision fire modernization effort for the Army and the national security strategy to compete with and outpace potential threats. LRHW will be able to travel at speeds of over 1.7 km per second (3,800 mph), dodge above the atmosphere and hit targets anywhere in the world within minutes. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

“Every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable … The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”
— John F. Kennedy

It was inevitable.

The madness that US President John F. Kennedy foresaw in the early 1960s of his administration, has come to pass.

Mankind is now making weapons that simply cannot be stopped.

This week, the US Army’s 56th Artillery Command, based in the Western District of Mainz-Kastel, Germany, held a quiet recommissioning ceremony, UK’s The Sun reported.

It was a move completely ignored by the rest of the world, but it sure made a splash at the Kremlin in Moscow. That, you can bet on.

The ceremony in question involved the reactivation of a nuclear unit in Germany since the Cold War.

It is now armed, with “Dark Eagle” — a long-range hypersonic weapon (LRHW) capable of travelling at 4,000 mph.

The message was clear … Dark Eagle could blitz Russia in just 21 minutes and 30 seconds.

The decision to reactivate is amid the growing concerns in the Pentagon that Russia has succeeded NATO and the US in creating long-range artillery rockets.

The Command was first formed in 1942 and fought in Europe during World War II but was deactivated in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union.

The commanding general of the artillery unit, General Stephen Maranian said the development will “provide the US Army Europe and Africa with significant capabilities in multi-domain operations.”

It was believed that the US was falling behind in the creation of a hypersonic weapon until last month when it was announced that the US had completed its delivery of the Dark Eagle.

“From a blank piece of paper in March 2019, we, along with our industry partners and joint services, delivered this hardware in just over two years. Now, Soldiers can begin training,” Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood said in a statement.

“It’s going to be a battery of four launchers, two missiles per for basic load of eight,” Bob Strider, Deputy Director of the Army Hypersonic Project Office, told The Drive at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium in August.

US Army “Dark Eagle” Infographic.

“It’s going to be a Battery Operations Center — that’s our C2 system that is based against an AFATDS, the [Advanced] Field Artillery Tactical Data System …. with a support vehicle.”

“This will be a road-mobile system, which is critical, the ability to move around the battlefield,” he added.

In its statement on the prototype LRHW delivery, the Army says the weapon, once fielded, will “provide a unique combination of speed, maneuverability, and altitude to defeat time-critical, heavily defended, and high-value targets.”

As far as speed is concerned, the Pentagon has previously said that the Common Hypersonic Glide Body, or C-HGB, will be capable of reaching a maximum speed of Mach 17.

It also said it would be able to strike targets at a distance of at least 1,725 miles.

Last month, China appeared to have taken a shock lead in the hypersonic arms race after it was revealed that Beijing flew a nuclear-capable missile around the world.

US intelligence and military officials were reportedly left stunned after China launched a rocket in space carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) that circled the globe before speeding towards its target.

The next generation of weapons can hit speeds of up to 21,000 mph — and potentially even faster — and are seen as a devastating new frontier for warfare.

Hypersonic missiles are a game-changer because unlike ballistic missiles, which fly into space before returning on steep trajectories, they zoom in on targets at lower altitudes.

This combined with typical speeds of five times the speed of sound – or around 4,000mph – makes them extremely hard, if not impossible, to shoot down.

China — followed closely by Russia — are regarded as having the most potent hypersonic missile arsenals pouring billions into them, but others are catching up.

Dynetics Technical Solutions, a Dynetics wholly-owned subsidiary, has been awarded a US$351.6 million contract to produce Common-Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) prototypes. Credit: Dynetics.

Still, the shocking revelations of their missile test back in August has sent shockwaves through Western intelligence who fear they actually underestimated Beijing.

US intelligence and military officials were reportedly left stunned after China launched a rocket in space carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle that circled the globe before speeding towards its target.

Circling the globe, it shows the weapon potentially has a range of some 25,000 miles and can operate in space.

It means the missile can theoretically hit anywhere on Earth — a terrifying thought for military planners at the Pentagon.

Previously referred to as Project 4202, Russia’s Avangard is a boost-glide, Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) missile system that was first unveiled during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2018 annual state-of-the-nation address.

“The Avangard is invulnerable to intercept by any existing and prospective missile defense means of the potential adversary,” the Russian leader boasted in Krushchev fashion.

As an HGV, Avangard combines a high-performance ballistic missile with an unmanned glider vehicle. Once the missile reaches a sufficient altitude, the glide vehicle separates to find its target at staggeringly high speeds, drastically reducing the window of opportunity for successful interception.

The weapon can reportedly travel at up to Mach 27 and is capable of maneuvering mid-flight, potentially allowing it to overcome even the most sophisticated enemy missile defenses through sheer speed and flight path alteration.

The Army worked with industry to build the industrial base for the hypersonic weapon glide body because the domestic private sector had never built one.

The service also separately produced launchers, trucks, trailers and the battle operation center necessary to put together the weapon battery.

“We took existing trailers and modified them with hydraulics and electronics and everything associated with being a launcher,” said Robert Strider, the deputy director of the Army Hypersonic Project Office.

“We are number three in this race. We have to catch up.”

Transportable on board an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, the LRHW is intended to be road-mobile such that it can hold targets at risk from multiple changing locations to maximize surprise and speed of attack.

“We will shoot exactly the same thing the Navy shoots out of a sub or ship,” said Strider.

Lockheed Martin is the weapon system integrator for the Army’s hypersonic capability that will be launched from a mobile truck. Dynetics was chosen to build the glide body for the missile.

Sources: The Sun, The Drive, Defence View, National Interest, The Indian Express