Chinese, Russian hypersonic weapons advances a growing concern, Air Force chief says

May 16, 2019 GMT

The U.S. cannot turn a blind eye to Russia and China’s rapid advances in the field of hypersonic weapons and must expedite efforts to build up its own weapons in the field, the Air Force’s top official said Thursday.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson listed hypersonics as one of several next-generation weapons technologies that could pose a risk to the U.S. and its allies in the near term.

“I do not think we should be naive in what we are facing” from Beijing and Moscow, in terms of their staggering advances in hypersonics, as well as artificial intelligence and 5G telecommunications, the outgoing secretary said.


“I think the threat is growing,” particularly in the field of hypersonics, she told reporters at a ‪Thursday breakfast‬ in Washington.

But Ms. Wilson, a former congresswoman stepping down in June, made clear Thursday that the U.S. was not seeking a new arms race with Russia or China in the field of super-fast weapons designed to overcome current defense systems. Service leaders and those in the Pentagon “see the world as it is and defend the country” based on those real-world threats, she said.

Traveling at five times the speed of sound and designed to hit any target around the world in an hour, hypersonic missiles are increasingly seen as a viable alternative to nuclear weapons — which are the only weapons that can currently travel faster and further than the high-speed, conventional missiles.

China successfully tested its own hypersonic missile, dubbed the Xingkong-2 or “Starry Sky-2,” last year from a undisclosed location in northwest China.

Russia announced the deployment of its own Kinzhal or “Dagger” hypersonic missile in May.

The last concerted U.S. push to develop a hypersonic weapon was in 2011, but those efforts never made it out of the early development phase.