hypersonic

Hypersonic Death: The Navy’s Fastest Tools of War

We spend a lot of money to develop the latest and greatest weapons for our military. These projects can take years to start, and be canceled in a blink. New developments have indicated railguns might be out, but hypersonic weapons still a go. There has been some major shifts in some very expensive projects. Let’s take a look.

Railguns

Despite some recent successful testing, the U.S. Navy appears to be dropping it’s $500 million dollar railgun project. At least for now. The new budget materials the Navy published does not show continued funding for the project. As a result, the electromagnetic railgun, which can fire projectiles up to Mach 6,  is essentially dead in the water. This high-tech program needs a considerable budget to continue, but that most likely will not happen this year. Check out some testing videos of the insane power these weapons can produce.

Hypervelocity projectiles

However, the Navy appears to be shifting focus to a different version of the same projectile. The Navy’s hypervelocity projectile only goes half as fast as the electromagnetic version. Though it maintains a big advantage that probably made all the difference. It was designed for use in the Navy’s current gunpowder based guns. Thus, it would be far less costly to equip the fleet with them.

 

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Railguns being tested at a test facility in Dahlgren, VA. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Hypersonic Missiles

This budgeting trouble has not to seemed to phase the production of the hypersonic weapons. The DOD has invested over $3 billion into developing this project and it appears to be on track. Although, the Navy did recently opt not to arm their jets with hypersonic missiles. However, they will equip all their Zumwalt-class destroyers with the missiles before 2025. Subsequently, the Navy will also arm their submarines with the new armament. Testing showed the missiles capable of reaching max speeds up to Mach 8.6. As well as still being highly maneuverable at Mach 5.

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F-35A Lightning II (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

To put this into context, the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile has a max speed of Mach 2.5. Furthermore, the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile has a max speed of Mach 4. These are the two missiles mainly carried by the F-35. Which can only reach Mach 1.3 for less than a minute at full burn.

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Zumwalt-class destroyer fires missile. (U.S. Navy Photo)

Hypersonic on the Zumwalt

The Navy currently has two operational stealth Zumwalt-class destroyers: the USS Zumwalt, and the USS Michael Monsoor. Additionally, the USS Lyndon B. Johnson is still in the “fitting out” stage. Each of these ships costs over $4 billion dollars. The term stealth is relative in referring to the Zumwalt-class destroyers. Their radar signature is about the size of a fishing boat, despite being 610 feet long. Making it very hard to spot outside of visual range. It already boats impressive weaponry. The Navy stating it carries:  “(80) Advanced Vertical Launch (AVLS) cells for Tomahawk, ESSM, Standard Missile; (2) Advanced Gun System (AGS) 155 mm guns; Long-Range Land Attack Projectiles (LRLAP) 155 mm rounds; (2) MK 46 Close In Guns (CIGS)”

The new additional ordnance would make the Zumwalt even more formidable than they already are. Stay tuned to American Grit for more news, stories and events.

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