The United States is losing the race to remain on top as China and Russia develop hypersonic weapons, according to a top Space Force commander.
“We’re not as advanced as the Chinese or the Russians in terms of hypersonic programs,” Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations, said Saturday during an appearance at the Halifax International Security Forum, according to Politico.
Hypersonic vehicles travel at Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, or faster, but also have advanced maneuverability capability that allows them to dodge existing weapons systems and radar.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall earlier this fall warned that China now had the “potential for global strikes … from space,” according to Air Force Magazine.
Current plans call for the U.S. to have an Army hypersonic missile in 2024 and a Navy one in 2025, according to Politico.
“It should be no surprise to anyone that China is developing capabilities that would be viewed negatively by like-minded allies and partners,” Navy Adm. John Aquilino told reporters at the Halifax forum.
The U.S. Space Force is working to “figure out the type of satellite constellation that we need” to track other countries’ missiles, Thompson said.
“It’s a new challenge, but it’s not that we don’t have an answer to this challenge. We just have to understand it, fully design it, and fly it,” he said.
While Thompson noted that there is no timeline for when those satellites will be operational, he said that’s a changing process and “we’re evolving our approach and our timelines rapidly.”
A senior US General has sounded the alarm on Beijing’s recent hypersonic missile test, warning that China might be able to launch a surprise nuclear attack on America one day. China’s hypersonic advancemennts already overshadow the US. @MollyGambhir tells you more pic.twitter.com/2Fz1hIpnkq
— WION (@WIONews) November 18, 2021
The U.S. Space Force, the country’s newest branch of the armed forces, was created in 2019 under then-President Donald Trump.
Thompson, who was confirmed in his current position by the Senate in September 2020 after being nominated by Trump a month earlier, said although China can push forward with new weapons, red tape hobbles the U.S.
Are rival countries’ hypersonic weapons programs a major threat to the United States?
“The bureaucracy that we’ve built into our defense and acquisition enterprise, not just in space but in other areas, has slowed us down in many areas,” Thompson said.
“The fact that we have not needed to move quickly for a couple of decades — in the sense of a strategic competitor with these capabilities — has not driven us or required us to move quickly.”
U.S. ‘not as advanced’ as China and Russia on hypersonic tech, Space Force general warns
While the Pentagon has pushed the development of new hypersonic missiles, the Army isn’t slated to field its first missile until 2024.https://t.co/KaiH77unAN
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) November 21, 2021
Aquilino said China’s advance on hypersonic weapons is likely to be only one area where it outpaces the U.S.
“We should expect capabilities like that to show up, and I think the answer is our system has to be able to respond much more quickly,” he said.