The Hypersonic Hype
New guided missiles with multiple speeds of sound should be hard to detect and fend off. States are already investing billions in development, and a new arms race is looming. The weapons can hardly meet the high expectations for physical reasons alone.
In 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the Russian Federation Assembly in which he threatened an escalating arms race with the US. In 2002, they left the ABM treaty on limiting missile defense systems, which had been concluded 30 years previously. After the unilateral denunciation, the US developed and built a network of long-range missile interceptions. Putin warned the Americans, and now Russia feels compelled to respond. That's why Russia is now developing new hypersonic weapons, among other systems.
These are missiles that steer through the atmosphere over long distances at more than five times the speed of sound. Mach 1 is the simple speed of sound. Up to five times that is called supersonic and anything over Mach 5 is called hypersonic. According to Putin, the "Avangard" missiles should glide thousands of kilometers with an initial speed of more than Mach 20 and be "absolutely invulnerable to any air or missile defense system". Putin backed up the threat with computer animations of the weapons snaking around the globe and around interceptor missiles.
The announcement fueled a dangerous arms race. The military powers involved praise the new miracle weapons not only as fast, but also as easy to maneuver and difficult to detect. That would be a clear advantage over the well-known ICBMs. …