2023 Author: Katelyn Chandter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 13:08
Hypersonic weapons can seriously affect the established strategic balance in the world. High-precision, maneuvering hypersonic ballistic missile warheads can pass any missile defense system.
On March 17, 2016 it became known that Russia is starting tests of the Zircon hypersonic anti-ship cruise missiles (ASC).
Presumably, the rocket will be able to develop a speed 5-6 times higher than the speed of sound (5-6M - when flying at low altitude, it is about 6-7 thousand km / h). The product is planned to be installed on the promising multipurpose nuclear submarines of the 5th generation "Husky", as well as to replace the heavy anti-ship missiles P-700 "Granit" with them on the cruisers 1144 "Orlan". The maximum range of the newest anti-ship missile system is unknown - presumably, it will be at least 400 km.
This news shows that Russia is coming close to creating real hypersonic weapons. But the US and China are also "not sitting idle." Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to find out many details about the real state of projects and the tactical and technical characteristics of these products. But we will still try to bring together the available facts and assumptions and determine what success the countries have achieved in "hypersound". This is very important, since the creation of real samples of hypersonic weapons will revolutionize the world of weapons and can seriously affect the balance of power in the world.
Promising hypersonic weapons of Russia
About the hypersonic anti-ship missile system 3M22 "Zircon", which is being developed by the corporation "Tactical Missile Armament", we started talking above. Its maximum speed will exceed that of the P-700 by 2−2.5 times ("Granites" develop a speed of 2.5M). Such a high speed makes the interception of the missile extremely difficult, and, moreover, greatly reduces the time for making decisions by the enemy - the flight of the Zircon over a distance of 400 km should last less than 4 minutes. It is impossible to predict how long the tests of the new anti-ship missile system will last - there is too little information available, and the complexity of the task is very high. It is unlikely that we should expect the creation of a real serial rocket earlier than by 2020, while there is a high probability that this will happen much later (and the main carrier of missiles, the new generation Husky submarines, are unlikely to be put into service before the end of 2020 -s). The second interesting Russian project is the so-called product 4202. NPO Mashinostroyenia has been developing it since 2009. We are talking about creating a hypersonic, maneuvering warhead for heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles (and since testing of the RS-28 Sarmat heavy liquid-propellant missile will begin in 2016, it is clear that new warheads are intended for it). Presumably, at least 6 tests of a new warhead have already been carried out, all with the help of the UR-100N UTTH ICBM (an obsolete heavy liquid-propellant rocket, from which nuclear warheads have already been removed, is used for testing and for launching satellites into orbit). Western media, including the authoritative agency Jane’s, wrote about the latest test. From the data given in the wall newspaper "NPO Mashinostroyenia", it is known that the warhead will be covered with a radio-absorbing coating. The creation of such a warhead will make the existing missile defense systems practically unarmed, since the warhead flies at high speed, not along a ballistic trajectory, and makes maneuvers. In addition, due to the fact that the warhead is controllable, it is possible to achieve a very high accuracy of destruction, in comparison with classical warheads, and this allows even the use of weapons in non-nuclear equipment, or with a low-power nuclear charge.
And finally, of interest is the possibility of creating a strategic cruise missile - airborne or sea-based. It is known that back in the USSR, the development of the X-90 GELA project (hypersonic experimental aircraft) began, but with the collapse of the country, work stopped, and prototypes were demonstrated at the MAKS air show in Zhukovsky. As conceived by the developers, the missile speed was supposed to reach 4-5M, and the maximum launch range was 3000 km. At the moment, there is no substantive information about the development of such a rocket, but rumors and fragmentary information about this are present.
US hypersonic projects
The United States is also actively developing hypersonic technologies, without hesitating once again to show or talk about the tests that have passed, although, of course, the Americans do not disclose technical details.
Of the latest projects, it is worth noting the prototype of the X-51 WaveRider hypersonic cruise missile. Product testing began in 2010. Of the 4 launches carried out from the B-52H strategic bomber, one was completely successful - the very last (May 1, 2013). The rocket developed a maximum speed of 5.1M (6100 km / h) at an altitude of about 18 km, while the flight lasted about 6 minutes, a distance of 426 km was covered. A video recording of these tests was also published in the public domain. The predecessor of the X-51, the X-43A, was also interesting. This cruise missile set a speed record, developing 9.65M, but the rocket engine ran for only 10-11 seconds.
Thus, the United States has a solid groundwork for creating a real combat cruise missile. How close the Americans are to this is not yet clear - the information is classified.
Another project being developed under the Prompt Global Strike initiative is the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). This promising weapon of a non-nuclear disarming strike is a hypersonic warhead, which is launched using a STARS IV carrier rocket (a modification of a decommissioned UGM-27 Polaris medium-range submarine missile) into the upper atmosphere, and then "plans" to the target at hypersonic speed. American gunsmiths expect to hit targets at distances of up to 6,000 km in this way. According to the US military, the first test of the AHW in 2011 was successful - the warhead flew 3,700 km in about 30 minutes and hit the target. The second test, which took place in 2014, turned out to be a failure - the warhead self-destructed at 4 seconds of flight.
The competitor to the AHW program is the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2). The essence of the project is the same. At the first tests, which were carried out in 2010, the following requirements were imposed on the warhead: to fly 7, 700 km, having a speed of about 20M. HTV-2 was launched into the upper atmosphere using the Minotaur IV launch vehicle (a modification of the decommissioned LGM-118 Peacekeeper ICBMs). The flight was supposed to last 30 minutes, but at the 9th minute, communication with the warhead was lost. The second tests in 2011 developed approximately according to the same scenario - the connection was also lost at about 9 minutes.
And the last - on March 15, 2016, the American arms giant Lockheed Martin announced that work was underway on the creation of the SR-72 hypersonic drone. The flight speed of the aircraft must be at least 6M. According to representatives of the company, the aircraft can be created by the mid-2020s, and the cost of one machine will be less than $ 1 billion. The dimensions of the drone will be similar to the 5th generation F-22 fighter, so it can be assumed that the machine will be able to perform reconnaissance and, possibly, strike missions. By the way, the project to create a hypersonic aircraft HTV-3X within the framework of the Falcon program (which also includes the above-described HTV-2) was frozen in 2008 due to lack of funds, but now the project seems to come to life.
Other countries testing hypersonic weapons
According to American sources (later briefly confirmed by Beijing), China is also working on the creation of a hypersonic warhead similar to the product 4202 or HTV-2. The product, called the Wu-14 by the Americans, has already been tested 6 times, and, apparently, 5 of the tests were successful, or partially successful. More accurate and detailed information about the project is not yet available, as well as about the technical characteristics of the Chinese hypersonic glider.
Another Asian giant, India, also has successes. The Shaurya tactical surface-to-surface missile has been created there, accelerating to a speed of about 7M (roughly the same as the Russian Iskander-M tactical missile). However, including tactical ballistic missiles in this list is probably not very correct. On the other hand, India is jointly developing the Brahmos-2 anti-ship missile system with Russia, which may be one of the modifications of the aforementioned Zircon.
France is also developing hypersonic weapons - development has begun on the ASN4G air-to-surface cruise missile. The French want to accelerate this nuclear weapon to a speed of about 8M, but no time frame has yet been announced on when the first prototype will be ready.
1. Hypersonic weapons can seriously affect the established strategic balance in the world. It reduces the reaction time for the enemy to the limit, and high-precision, maneuvering hypersonic warheads of ballistic missiles can pass any missile defense system. High accuracy and, as a result, the possibility of abandoning nuclear warheads increases the "temptation" to use such weapons in order to disarm the enemy.
2. At the current technological level, the creation of real samples of hypersonic weapons ceases to be a fantasy. This is especially true of hypersonic warheads-gliders for ICBMs. Cruise missiles with a flight speed of 5-6M may also soon become a reality.
3. The most dubious so far are the projects of hypersonic aircraft - such projects are too expensive at this stage. So it will probably take a long time to "ride" from Moscow to New York in an hour.
4. Neither side has a decisive advantage in a hypersonic race. The United States speaks most openly about its projects (perhaps not all?), Russia, and, to a greater extent, China - try not to fully reveal their cards yet. The rest are still playing the role of catch-ups.