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GWYNNE DYER: Hypersonic hype

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04.01.2020

Hypersonic missiles are not a terrifying new weapon. They are just another cog in the terrifying but remarkably stable old strategy called nuclear deterrence.

“The Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle entered service at 10:00 Moscow time on 27 December,” boasted Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu — but nobody quailed in their boots.

The new Russian missile can deliver nuclear weapons, of course, and the Russians are very proud of it. As President Vladimir Putin said, “Not a single (other) country possesses hypersonic weapons, let alone continental-range hypersonic weapons.”

They’ll all be green with envy.

A hypersonic missile’s warheads launch on a rocket, just like the traditional Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs).

However, instead of going very high and travelling most of the distance through space in a predictable ballistic trajectory before plunging back down into the atmosphere and striking their target, the hypersonic missile’s warheads go low early.

The hypersonic missile launches on a depressed trajectory, and then a glide vehicle detaches from the rocket and skips along the edge of the atmosphere, travelling at up to 20 times the speed of sound. It comes over the horizon and becomes visible to the enemy’s missile defence radars only when it’s much........

© The Journal Pioneer