Lagging behind Russia in developing hypersonic weapons, the U.S. Navy is rushing to field its first, with installation on a warship starting as soon as late next year.
The United States is in a race with Russia and China to develop these weapons, which travel at speeds akin to ballistic missiles but are difficult to shoot down because of their maneuverability.
The Russian military says it already deployed hypersonic missiles, claiming on both Saturday and Sunday to have deployed them against targets in Ukraine marking the weapon’s first use in combat. The Pentagon couldn’t confirm a hypersonic weapon was used in the attacks.
The American military is accelerating development to catch up.
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The U.S. weapon would launch like a ballistic missile and would release a hypersonic glide vehicle that would reach speeds seven to eight times faster than the speed of sound before hitting the target.
In Maine, General Dynamics subsidiary Bath Iron Works has begun engineering and design work on changes necessary to install the weapon system on three Zumwalt-class destroyers.
The work would begin at a yet-to-be-named shipyard sometime in fiscal year that begins in October 2023, the Navy said.
Hypersonic weapons are defined as anything traveling beyond Mach 5, or five times faster than the speed of sound. That’s about 3,800 mph (6,100 kph). Intercontinental ballistic missiles far exceed that threshold but travel
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