The Reason Why America Isn't Ready to Protect Itself from Russian Hypersonic Missiles

Bishop Garrison, Preston Lann

Key point: America is spending on hypersonic weapons but not enough on hypersonic defense.

Russia is developing hypersonic nuclear weapons, and Putin claims he offered to sell one to President Donald Trump. While the conversation between the two leaders was presented light-heartedly, the very real threat from Russian and Chinese hypersonic weapons systems continues to grow as both make significant advances in the development of hypersonic weapons that can escape and evade the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Ballistic Missile Defense System. To counter this emerging hypersonic threat, the DoD’s 2019 budget has allocated more than $2 billion for hypersonic weapons development. However, the DoD’s hypersonic weapons program currently suffers from large disparities in research and budget between its offensive and defensive capabilities development. While offensive capabilities are important, a strong defensive capability remains important to the protection of interests and assets.

The majority of DoD's funding for hypersonic weapons development currently goes toward precision strike or offensive weapons, as opposed to missile defense programs. Next year’s DoD budget for overall hypersonic investments is approximately $2.6 billion, with defensive developments making up only about six percent ($157.4 million) of that investment budget. Moreover, the budgetary figure for defensive developments will drop by almost a quarter in the coming years, from $157.4 million next year to $122 million by 2024.

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