Here’s Timothy Walton on why we need hypersonic weapons like the Army’s AHW which Congress just approved some small funding to research:
While the program has great promise, a mere few weeks ago, James Acton, a physicist and scholar of strategy, penned a forceful piece contending U.S. boost-glide development programs have “no defined mission” and will kick off an arms race with China. While his piece raises important issues that merit consideration, a correction of the record is necessary, especially given Congress’ support for this program. The United States’ boost-glide development program does in fact have a clearly defined development objective, and will not start an arms race with China — if anything it is a response to Chinese militarization.
Indeed, by swiftly introducing intermediate-range missiles such as the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon in a manner similar to the “Double-Track Decision” taken by NATO during the Cold War, the United States can encourage the global elimination of destabilizing intermediate-range missiles, while ensuring its ability to field them rapidly to enhance deterrence if necessary.
I think he’s right, although the things still scare the bejeebus out of me. A nuclear first strike meant instant nuclear retaliation and the end of the world as we knew it. An overwhelming strike by enough of these babies, properly targeted, might do what the 1941 strike on Pearl Harbor couldn’t — immediately put us in an impossible strategic situation but without killing enough Americans to justify a return nuclear strike.
Here’s to hoping the $71 million pittance Congress has approved is just the first drop in a large bucket.