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Hypersonic Missiles: Travelling at the Speed of Sound…Times 5

A new report has been published on the development of hypersonic missile technologies, their use in military operations, and possible implications for global stability. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is playing a key role in the development of these concepts and technologies within the UK.

There is no widely accepted definition for the term ‘hypersonic missile’ according to this new report, but it is generally used to describe missiles that “travel within the Earth’s atmosphere for sustained periods at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound, whilst being able to make significant manoeuvres that change the missile’s direction.”

Report overview

  • China and Russia have reportedly deployed hypersonic missiles that could deliver conventional or nuclear weapons
  • The US is testing multiple hypersonic technologies
  • The AUKUS agreement between the UK, US and Australia includes developing hypersonic and counter-hypersonic technologies
  • Hypersonic missiles are expensive and technically demanding to develop (their uses and effectiveness are still being assessed)
  • Speed, manoeuvrability and altitude may challenge existing missile defences
  • Some analysts say they could increase risk of conflict; others say they will not alter the strategic balance between nuclear powers
  • Arms control, export controls and other measures may help limit potential harm to peace and stability, but face challenges

The UK does not have a hypersonic missile capability, but the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has announced a hypersonics programme to develop “future hypersonic concepts and technologies”.

In 2022, it was announced that Australia, the US and the UK would collaborate on the development of hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities via the AUKUS security partnership.  

You can download the full report from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) website.

Source : GOV.UK