New hypersonic strike weapons technology will reduce strategic warning times. What does this mean for Defence and Australia?

Hypersonic technology has attracted a growing level of media interest of late. Successful tests of hypersonic systems by the United States, China, and Russia have raised concerns that we will soon see hypersonic weapons appearing in the battlespace. But despite the success of these experimental vehicles, much work remains to be done to overcome a number of challenges before hypersonic systems can become operational.

Key Terms


Hypersonic refers to speeds from Mach 5 (≈ 3,000 knots) to approximately Mach 25 (≈ 16,000 knots). With such a broad range of speeds falling within this definition comes a correspondingly large array of capabilities and systems that fall within the scope of hypersonic technology: from air-to-air missiles launched from a fighter flying through the atmosphere at Mach 6, to space vehicles re-entering the atmosphere at Mach 25. Making sense of the potential effect of such a diversity of systems on the future of air power is challenging. One approach is to identify what characteristics of hypersonic systems stimulate military interest.