Is The U.S. Navy Planning To Put Hypersonic Missiles On Submarines?

Zachary Keck

Key point: They could be here as soon as 2020.

Back in 2017, the U.S. Navy conducted its first test of a new hypersonic missile.

The test was announced by Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, the director of the Strategic Systems Program (SSP), at the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium in Arlington, Virginia, on November 2, 2017. “I’m very proud to report that at 0300 on Monday night SSP flew from Hawaii [Pacific Missile Range Facility] . . . the first conventional prompt strike missile for the United States Navy in the form factor that would eventually, could eventually be utilized if leadership chooses to do so in an Ohio-class tube,” Benedict said, according U.S. Naval Institute News, which first reported his remarks. “It’s a monumental achievement.”

Benedict refused to provide any other details of the test, but a Pentagon spokesperson later gave additional information when contacted by U.S. Naval Institute News. “The Navy Strategic Systems Program (SSP), on behalf of the Department of Defense, conducted an Intermediate Range Conventional Prompt Strike Flight Experiment-1 (CPS FE-1) test on Oct. 30, 2017, from Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii,” said Cmdr. Patrick Evans, the Pentagon spokesperson. “The test collected data on hypersonic boost-glide technologies and test-range performance for long-range atmospheric flight. This data will be used by the Department of Defense to anchor ground testing, modeling, and simulation of hypersonic flight vehicle performance and is applicable to a range of possible Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) concepts.”

Hypersonic missiles are defined as those traveling at speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10. That is, between 3,106 and 15,534 miles per hour, or one to five miles per second. China, Russia and the United States are all currently investing heavily in hypersonics, while a few other countries are also exploring the technology to a much lesser degree.

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