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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Raytheon successfully completed the baseline design review for the Tactical Boost Glide hypersonic weapons programme. A boost glide weapon uses a rocket to accelerate its payload and achieve hypersonic speeds – velocities greater than Mach 5. During flight, the payload separates from the rocket and glides unpowered to its destination. The U.S. military will use hypersonic weapons to engage from longer ranges with shorter response times and with greater effectiveness than current weapon systems.

Hypersonic missiles are cheaper to produce and easier to maintain than fighter jets. So one or some of those missiles starting from somewhere around the globe, soaring and maneuvering through the atmosphere faster than five times the speed of sound, would be very hard to stop. This is why there is almost a rush on hypersonic missiles in (the major) armed forces worldwide. Russia and China both claim to have tested hypersonic systems already. “In the last year, China has tested more hypersonics weapons than we have in a decade,” Michael Griffin, the Pentagon’s top weapons researcher, said at a National Defense Industrial Association-sponsored event in December. “We have got to fix that. Hypersonics is a game-changer.”

One of the major steps for the U.S. is the Tactical Boost Glide hypersonic weapons programme. The now completed baseline design review follows a $63 million DARPA contract to further develop the Tactical Boost Glide programme, a joint effort between the agency and the U.S. Air Force together with Raytheon as industry partner. “We understand the urgency of the need and are working fast to deliver this advanced technology to our nation’s military,” said Dr. Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems Vice President. “The goal is to keep America ahead of emerging threats, and we are well on our way.”

Dorothee Frank