Pentagon Wants Cheaper Hypersonic Weapons

A single missile can cost tens of millions.

Last month, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) took a hypersonic missile prototype, built by Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Northrop Grumman, and completed a successful free-flight test.

The test involved a Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept missile. The HAWC’s engine got it to as fast as five times the speed of sound, or about 3,853 miles per hour. It was a monumental moment for hypersonics, which are expected to be the new frontier for advanced weaponry.

But now, Reuters reports the Pentagon is saying that hypersonics are too expensive. It requested that defense contractors cut the ultimate cost of such weapons — one unit can cost tens of millions. 

Right now, the U.S. utilizes cruise missiles for attacks deep in enemy territory. They are cheaper, costing $5 million per unit, but do not match up against hypersonic weapons due to slower speed, smaller range, and a higher likelihood of being detected. 

Despite the request for lower costs, the Pentagon’s budget request for hypersonic research in the 2022 fiscal year did increase to $3.8 billion. A year prior, it was $3.2 billion. 

Heidi Shyu, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said, "If things start to progress in success stories and as we start to buy more than onesies twosies, the price curve will come down."

The U.S. is not alone in testing hypersonic missiles. Back in July, Russia announced a completed test for a Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile.

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