Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues
August 27, 2020
for Congress
Kelley M. Sayler
The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons—
Analyst in Advanced
maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional
Technology and Global
prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. In recent years, the United States
Security
has focused such efforts on developing hypersonic glide vehicles, which are launched

from a rocket before gliding to a target, and hypersonic cruise missiles, which are

powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines during flight. As Vice Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command General John Hyten has stated, these
weapons could enable “responsive, long-range, strike options against distant, defended, and/or time-critical
threats [such as road-mobile missiles] when other forces are unavailable, denied access, or not preferred.” Critics,
on the other hand, contend that hypersonic weapons lack defined mission requirements, contribute little to U.S.
military capability, and are unnecessary for deterrence.
Funding for hypersonic weapons has been relatively restrained in the past; however, both the Pentagon and
Congress have shown a growing interest in pursuing the development and near-term deployment of hypersonic
systems. This is due, in part, to the growing interest in these technologies in Russia and China, both of which have
a number of hypersonic weapons programs and are expected to field an operational hypersonic glide vehicle—
potential y armed with nuclear warheads—as early as 2020. Most U.S. hypersonic weapons, in contrast to those in
Russia and China, are not being designed for use with a nuclear warhead. As a result, U.S. hypersonic weapons
wil likely require greater accuracy and wil be more technical y chal enging to develop than nuclear-armed
Chinese and Russian systems.
The Pentagon’s FY2021 budget request for al hypersonic-related research is $3.2 bil ion—up from $2.6 bil ion in
the FY2020 request—including $206.8 mil ion for hypersonic defense programs. At present, the Department of
Defense (DOD) has not established any programs of record for hypersonic weapons, suggesting that it may not
have approved either requirements for the systems or long-term funding plans. Indeed, as Assistant Director for
Hypersonics (Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering) Mike White has stated,
DOD has not yet made a decision to acquire hypersonic weapons and is instead developing prototypes to assist in
the evaluation of potential weapon system concepts and mission sets.
As Congress reviews the Pentagon’s plans for U.S. hypersonic weapons programs, it might consider questions
about the rationale for hypersonic weapons, their expected costs, and their implications for strategic stability and
arms control. Potential questions include the following:
 What mission(s) wil hypersonic weapons be used for? Are hypersonic weapons the most cost-
effective means of executing these potential missions? How wil they be incorporated into joint
operational doctrine and concepts?
 Given the lack of defined mission requirements for hypersonic weapons, how should Congress
evaluate funding requests for hypersonic weapons programs or the balance of funding requests
for hypersonic weapons programs, enabling technologies, and supporting test infrastructure? Is an
acceleration of research on hypersonic weapons, enabling technologies, or hypersonic missile
defense options both necessary and technological y feasible?
 How, if at al , wil the fielding of hypersonic weapons affect strategic stability?
 Is there a need for risk-mitigation measures, such as expanding New START, negotiating new
multilateral arms control agreements, or undertaking transparency and confidence-building
activities?

Congressional Research Service


link to page 4 link to page 5 link to page 7 link to page 7 link to page 12 link to page 13 link to page 14 link to page 15 link to page 15 link to page 16 link to page 17 link to page 19 link to page 19 link to page 20 link to page 20 link to page 21 link to page 6 link to page 14 link to page 18 link to page 11 link to page 23 link to page 24 link to page 24 link to page 25 link to page 25 link to page 25 link to page 23 link to page 26 Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

Contents
Introduction ................................................................................................................... 1
Background.................................................................................................................... 2
United States ............................................................................................................ 4
Programs ............................................................................................................ 4
Infrastructure ....................................................................................................... 9
Russia.................................................................................................................... 10
Programs .......................................................................................................... 11
Infrastructure ..................................................................................................... 12
China..................................................................................................................... 12
Programs .......................................................................................................... 13
Infrastructure ..................................................................................................... 14
Issues for Congress ....................................................................................................... 16
Mission Requirements .............................................................................................. 16
Funding Considerations ............................................................................................ 17
Strategic Stability .................................................................................................... 17
Arms Control .......................................................................................................... 18

Figures
Figure 1. Terrestrial-Based Detection of Bal istic Missiles vs. Hypersonic Glide Vehicles .......... 3
Figure 2. Artist Rendering of Avangard............................................................................. 11
Figure 3. Lingyun-1 Hypersonic Cruise Missile Prototype ................................................... 15

Tables
Table 1. Summary of U.S. Hypersonic Weapons Programs .................................................... 8

Table A-1. DOD Hypersonic Ground Test Facilities............................................................ 20
Table A-2. DOD Open-Air Ranges................................................................................... 21
Table A-3. DOD Mobile Assets ....................................................................................... 21
Table A-4. NASA Research-Related Facilities ................................................................... 22
Table A-5. Department of Energy Research-Related Facilities .............................................. 22
Table A-6. Industry/Academic Research-Related Facilities .................................................. 22

Appendixes
Appendix. U.S. Hypersonic Testing Infrastructure .............................................................. 20

Contacts
Author Information ....................................................................................................... 23

Congressional Research Service

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

Introduction
The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons as a part of its
conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) program since the early 2000s.1 In recent years, it has
focused such efforts on hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles with shorter and
intermediate ranges for use in regional conflicts. Although funding for these programs has been
relatively restrained in the past, both the Pentagon and Congress have shown a growing interest in
pursuing the development and near-term deployment of hypersonic systems. This is due, in part,
to the growing interest in these technologies in Russia and China, leading to a heightened focus in
the United States on the strategic threat posed by hypersonic flight. Open-source reporting
indicates that both China and Russia have conducted numerous successful tests of hypersonic
glide vehicles, and both are expected to field an operational capability as early as 2020.
Experts disagree on the potential impact of competitor hypersonic weapons on both strategic
stability and the U.S. military’s competitive advantage. Nevertheless, former Under Secretary of
Defense for Research and Engineering (USD[R&E]) Michael Griffin has testified to Congress
that the United States does not “have systems which can hold [China and Russia] at risk in a
corresponding manner, and we don’t have defenses against [their] systems.”2 Although the John
S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY2019 NDAA, P.L. 115-
232) accelerated the development of hypersonic weapons, which USD(R&E) identifies as a
priority research and development area, the United States is unlikely to field an operational
system before 2023. However, most U.S. hypersonic weapons programs, in contrast to those in
Russia and China, are not being designed for use with a nuclear warhead.3 As a result, U.S.
hypersonic weapons wil likely require greater accuracy and wil be more technical y chal enging
to develop than nuclear-armed Chinese and Russian systems.
In addition to accelerating development of hypersonic weapons, Section 247 of the FY2019
NDAA required that the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Director of the Defense
Intel igence Agency, produce a classified assessment of U.S. and adversary hypersonic weapons
programs, to include the following elements:
(1) An evaluation of spending by the United States and adversaries on such technology.
(2) An evaluation of the quantity and quality of research on such technology.
(3) An evaluation of the test infrastructure and workforce supporting such technology.
(4) An assessment of the technological progress of the United States and adversaries on
such technology.
(5) Descriptions of timelines for operational deployment of such technology.

1 For details, see CRS Report R41464, Conventional Prompt Global Strike and Long-Range Ballistic Missiles:
Background and Issues
, by Amy F. Woolf.
2 U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Armed Services, “T estimony of Michael Griffin,” Hearing on New
T echnologies to Meet Emerging T hreats, April 18, 2018, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/18-
40_04-18-18.pdf.
3 Until recently, the United States was not believed to be considering the development of nuclear-armed hypersonic
weapons; however, a since-revoked Air Force solicit ation sought ideas for a “ thermal protection system that can
support [a] hypersonic glide to ICBM ranges.” Senior defense officials responded to news reports of the revocation,
stating that DOD “remains committed to non-nuclear role for hypersonics.” See Steve T rimble, “USAF Errantly
Reveals Research on ICBM-Range Hypersonic Glide Vehicle,” Aviation Week, August 18, 2020,
https://aviationweek.com/defense-space/missile-defense-weapons/usaf-errantly-reveals-research-icbm-range-
hypersonic-glide.
Congressional Research Service

1

link to page 6 Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

(6) An assessment of the intent or willingness of adversaries to use such technology.4
This report was delivered to Congress in July 2019. Similarly, Section 1689 of the FY2019
NDAA requires the Director of the Missile Defense Agency to produce a report on “how
hypersonic missile defense can be accelerated to meet emerging hypersonic threats.”5 The
findings of these reports could hold implications for congressional authorizations, appropriations,
and oversight.
The following report reviews the hypersonic weapons programs in the United States, Russia, and
China, providing information on the programs and infrastructure in each nation, based on
unclassified sources. It also provides a brief summary of the state of global hypersonic weapons
research development. It concludes with a discussion of the issues that Congress might address as
it considers DOD’s funding requests for U.S. hypersonic technology programs.
Background
Several countries are developing hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds of at least Mach 5 (five
times the speed of sound), but none have yet introduced them into their operational military
forces.6 There are two primary categories of hypersonic weapons
Hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) are launched from a rocket before gliding to a
target.7
Hypersonic cruise missiles are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines, or
“scramjets,” after acquiring their target.
Unlike bal istic missiles, hypersonic weapons do not follow a bal istic trajectory and can
maneuver en route to their destination. As Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former
Commander of U.S. Strategic Command General John Hyten has stated, hypersonic weapons
could enable “responsive, long-range, strike options against distant, defended, and/or time-critical
threats [such as road-mobile missiles] when other forces are unavailable, denied access, or not
preferred.”8 Conventional hypersonic weapons use only kinetic energy—energy derived from
motion—to destroy unhardened targets or, potential y, underground facilities.9
Hypersonic weapons could chal enge detection and defense due to their speed, maneuverability,
and low altitude of flight.10 For example, terrestrial-based radar cannot detect hypersonic
weapons until late in the weapon’s flight.11 Figure 1 depicts the differences in terrestrial-based
radar detection timelines for bal istic missiles versus hypersonic glide vehicles.

4 P.L. 115-232, Section 2, Division A, T itle II, §247.
5 P.L. 115-232, Section 2, Division A, T itle XVI, §1689.
6 T he United States, Russia, China, Australia, India, France, and Germany are developing hypersonic weapons
technology. See Richard H. Speier et al., Hypersonic Missile Proliferation: Hindering the Spread of a New Class of
Weapons
, RAND Corporation, 2017, https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2137.html.
7 When HGVs are mated with their rocket booster, the resulting weapon system is often referred to as a hypersonic
boost -glide weapon.
8 U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Armed Services, “T estimony of John E. Hyten ,” Hearing on United States
Strategic Command and United States Northern Command, February 26, 2019, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/
imo/media/doc/Hyten_02-26-19.pdf.
9 Richard H. Speier et al., Hypersonic Missile Proliferation: Hindering the Spread of a New Class of Weapons, p. 13.
10 See Department of Defense, 2019 Missile Defense Review, https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Interactive/2018/11-
2019-Missile-Defense-Review/T he%202019%20MDR_Executive%20Summary.pdf.
11 Richard H. Speier et al., Hypersonic Missile Proliferation: Hindering the Spread of a New Class of Weapons.
Congressional Research Service

2


Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

Figure 1. Terrestrial-Based Detection of Ballistic Missiles vs.
Hypersonic Glide Vehicles

Source: CRS image based on an image in “Gliding missiles that fly faster than Mach 5 are coming,” The
Economist
, April 6, 2019, https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2019/04/06/gliding-missiles-that-fly-
faster-than-mach-5-are-coming.
This delayed detection compresses the timeline for decision-makers assessing their response
options and for a defensive system to intercept the attacking weapon—potential y permitting only
a single intercept attempt.12
Furthermore, U.S. defense officials have stated that both terrestrial- and current space-based
sensor architectures are insufficient to detect and track hypersonic weapons, with former
USD(R&E) Griffin noting that “hypersonic targets are 10 to 20 times dimmer than what the U.S.
normal y tracks by satel ites in geostationary orbit.”13 Some analysts have suggested that space-
based sensor layers—integrated with tracking and fire-control systems to direct high-performance
interceptors or directed energy weapons—could theoretical y present viable options for defending
against hypersonic weapons in the future.14 Indeed, the 2019 Missile Defense Review notes that
“such sensors take advantage of the large area viewable from space for improved tracking and
potential y targeting of advanced threats, including HGVs and hypersonic cruise missiles.”15
Other analysts have questioned the affordability, technological feasibility, and/or utility of wide-
area hypersonic weapons defense.16 As physicist and nuclear expert James Acton explains, “point-
defense systems, and particularly [Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)], could very
plausibly be adapted to deal with hypersonic missiles. The disadvantage of those systems is that
they can only defend smal areas. To defend the whole of the continental United States, you

12 Bradley Perrett et al., “U.S. Navy sees Chinese HGV as part of Wider T hreat,” Aviation Week, January 27, 2014.
13 David Vergun, “ DOD Scaling Up Effort to Develop Hypersonics,” DoD News, December 13, 2018,
https://dod.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1712954/dod-scaling-up-effort-to-develop-hypersonics/; see also
“T estimony of Michael Griffin”; and “T estimony of John E. Hyten.”
14 “T estimony of Michael Griffin”; and “T estimony of John E. Hyten.”
15 Department of Defense, 2019 Missile Defense Review, p. XVI, https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Interactive/2018/
11-2019-Missile-Defense-Review/T he%202019%20MDR_Executive%20Summary.pdf.
16 See James M. Acton, “Hypersonic Weapons Explainer,” Carnegie Endowm ent for International Peace, April 2, 2018,
https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/04/02/hypersonic-weapons-explainer-pub-75957; and Margot van Loon,
“Hypersonic Weapons: A Primer.”
Congressional Research Service

3

link to page 11 Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

would need an unaffordable number of THAAD batteries.”17 In addition, some analysts have
argued that the United States’ current command and control architecture would be incapable of
“processing data quickly enough to respond to and neutralize an incoming hypersonic threat.”18
(A broader discussion of hypersonic weapons defense is outside the scope of this report.)
United States
The Department of Defense (DOD) is currently developing hypersonic weapons under the Navy’s
Conventional Prompt Strike program, which is intended to provide the U.S. military with the
ability to strike hardened or time-sensitive targets with conventional warheads, as wel as through
several Air Force, Army, and DARPA programs.19 Those who support these development efforts
argue that hypersonic weapons could enhance deterrence, as wel as provide the U.S. military
with an ability to defeat capabilities such as advanced air and missile defense systems that form
the foundation of U.S. competitors’ anti-access/area denial strategies.20 In recognition of this, the
2018 National Defense Strategy identifies hypersonic weapons as one of the key technologies
“[ensuring the United States] wil be able to fight and win the wars of the future.”21
Programs
Unlike programs in China and Russia, most U.S. hypersonic weapons are to be conventional y
armed. As a result, U.S. hypersonic weapons wil likely require greater accuracy and wil be more
technical y chal enging to develop than nuclear-armed Chinese and Russian systems. Indeed,
according to one expert, “a nuclear-armed glider would be effective if it were 10 or even 100
times less accurate [than a conventional y-armed glider]” due to nuclear blast effects.22
According to open-source reporting, the United States has a number of major offensive
hypersonic weapons and hypersonic technology programs in development, including the
following (see Table 1):
 U.S. Navy—Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS);
 U.S. Army—Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW);
 U.S. Air Force—AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW,
pronounced “arrow”);
 DARPA—Tactical Boost Glide (TBG);

17 Acton, “Hypersonic Weapons Explainer.”
18 Margot van Loon, “Hypersonic Weapons: A Primer” in Defense Technology Program Brief: Hypersonic Weapons,
American Foreign Policy Council, May 17, 2019. Some analysts have suggested that future command and control
systems may require autonomous functionality to manage the speed and unpredictability of hypersonic weapons. See
John L. Dolan, Richard K. Gallagher, and David L. Mann, “Hypersonic Weapons Are Literally Unstoppable (As in
America Can’t Stop T hem),” Real Clear Defense, April 23, 2019, https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2019/04/
23/hypersonic_weapons__a_threat_to_national_security_114358.html.
19 For a full history of U.S. hypersonic weapons programs, see CRS Report R41464, Conventional Prompt Global
Strike and Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues
, by Amy F. Woolf.
20 Roger Zakheim and T om Karako, “China’s Hypersonic Missile Advances and U.S. Defense Responses,” Remarks at
the Hudson Institute, March 19, 2019. See also Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Budget Estimates, Army
Justification Book of Research, Development, T est and Evaluation, Volume II, Budget Activity 4, p. 580.
21 Department of Defense, “Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of T he United States of America,” p. 3,
https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf.
22 James M. Acton, “China’s Advanced Weapons,” T estimony to the U.S. China Economic and Se curity Review
Commission, February 23, 2017, https://carnegieendowment.org/2017/02/23/china-s-advanced-weapons-pub-68095.
Congressional Research Service

4

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

 DARPA—Operational Fires (OpFires); and
 DARPA—Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC, pronounced
“hawk”).
These programs are intended to produce operational prototypes, as there are currently no
programs of record for hypersonic weapons.23 Accordingly, funding for U.S. hypersonic weapons
programs is found in the Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation accounts, rather than in
Procurement.
U.S. Navy
In a June 2018 memorandum, DOD announced that the Navy would lead the development of a
common glide vehicle for use across the services.24 The common glide vehicle is being adapted
from a Mach 6 Army prototype warhead, the Alternate Re-Entry System, which was successfully
tested in 2011 and 2017.25 Once development is complete, “Sandia National Laboratories, the
designer of the original concept, then wil build the common glide vehicles…. Booster systems
are being developed separately.”26
The Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) is expected to pair the common glide vehicle with
a submarine-launched booster system, achieving initial operational capability (IOC) on a
Virginia-class submarine with Virginia Payload Module in FY2028.27 The Navy is requesting $1
bil ion for CPS in FY2021—an increase of $415 mil ion over the FY2020 request and $496
mil ion over the FY2020 appropriation—and $5.3 bil ion across the five-year Future Years
Defense Program (FYDP).28
U.S. Army
The Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon program is expected to pair the common glide
vehicle with the Navy’s booster system. The system is intended to have a range of 1,400 miles

23 Steve T rimble, “ New Long-T erm Pentagon Plan Boosts Hypersonics, But Only Prototypes,” Aviation Week, March
15, 2019, https://aviationweek.com/defense/new-long-term-pentagon-plan-boosts-hypersonics-only-prototypes.
24 T he services coordinate efforts on a Common Hypersonic Glide Body Board of Directors with rotating chairmanship.
Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., “Army Ramps Up Funding For Laser Shield, Hypersonic Sword,” Breaking Defense,
February 28, 2020, https://breakingdefense.com/2020/02/army-ramps-up-funding-for-laser-shield-hypersonic-sword/.
25 Steve T rimble and Guy Norris, “Sandia’s Swerve Could Lead to First -gen Hypersonic Production Line,” Aviation
Week
, October 11, 2018, http://aviationweek.com/air-dominance/sandia-s-swerve-could-lead-first-gen-hypersonic-
production-line; and Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “ Army Warhead Is Key T o Joint Hypersonics,” Breaking Defense,
August 22, 2018, https://breakingdefense.com/2018/08/army-warhead-is-key-to-joint-hypersonics/.
26 T rimble and Norris, “ Sandia’s Swerve.”
27 Department of the Navy, “Highlights of the Department of the Navy FY 2021 Budget,” February 10, 2020,
https://www.secnav.navy.mil/fmc/fmb/Documents/21pres/Highlights_book.pdf. Vice Admiral T erry Benedict, former
director of the Navy Strategic Systems Program, has stated that CPS will eventually be deployed on both Ohio - and
Virginia-class submarines. Navy leadership has also discussed the possibility of deploying CPS on Arleigh Burke- and
Zumwalt -class destroyers. See Jason Sherman and Lee Hudson, “ Navy reveals plans to put hypersonic strike weapons
on submarines,” Inside Defense, November 8, 2017, https://insidedefense.com/inside-missile-defense/navy-reveals-
plans-put-hypersonic-strike-weapons-submarines; and Paul McLeary, “ SecNav T ells Fleet Hypersonic Competition
Demands ‘Sputnik Moment;’ Glide Body T est Set,” Breaking Defense, January 31, 2020, https://breakingdefense.com/
2020/01/secnav-tells-fleet-hypersonic-competition-demands-sputnik-moment-glide-body-test-set/.
28 Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget Estimates, Navy Justification Book of Research,
Development, T est and Evaluation, Volume II, Budget Activity 4, p. 1419, https://www.secnav.navy.mil/fmc/fmb/
Documents/21pres/RDT EN_BA4_Book.pdf; see also CRS In Focus IF10831, Defense Prim er: Future Years Defense
Program (FYDP)
, by Brendan W. McGarry and Heidi M. Peters.
Congressional Research Service

5

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

and “provide the Army with a prototype strategic attack weapon system to defeat A2/AD
capabilities, suppress adversary Long Range Fires, and engage other high payoff/time sensitive
targets.”29 The Army is requesting $801 mil ion for the program in FY2021—$573 mil ion over
the FY2020 request and $397 mil ion over the FY2020 appropriation—and $3.3 bil ion across the
FYDP.30 It plans to conduct flight tests for LRHW from FY2021 to FY2023, field combat rounds
in FY2023, and transition to a program of record in the fourth quarter of FY2024.31
U.S. Air Force
The AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon is expected to leverage DARPA’s Tactical
Boost Glide technology to develop an air-launched hypersonic glide vehicle prototype capable of
travel ing at speeds up to Mach 20 at a range of approximately 575 miles.32 Despite testing delays
due to technical chal enges, ARRW completed a successful flight test in June 2019 and is
expected to complete flight tests in FY2022.33 The Air Force has requested $382 mil ion for
ARRW in FY2021—up from $286 mil ion in the FY2020 request and appropriation—and $581
mil ion across the FYDP, with no funds requested beyond FY2022.34 ARRW is a project under the
Air Force’s Hypersonics Prototyping Program Element, which is intended to demonstrate
concepts “to [enable] leadership to make informed strategy and resource decisions … for future
programs.”35
In February 2020, the Air Force announced that it had cancel ed its second hypersonic weapon
program, the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW), which had been expected to use
the common glide vehicle, due to budget pressures that forced it to choose between ARRW and
HCSW.36 Air Force acquisition chief Wil Roper explained that ARRW was selected because it
was more advanced and gave the Air Force additional options. “[ARRW] is smal er; we can carry

29 Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Budget Estimates, Army Justification Book of Research,
Development, T est and Evaluation, Volume II, Budget Activity 4, pp. 579 -584, https://www.asafm.army.mil/
documents/BudgetMaterial/fy2020/rdte_ba4.pdf; and Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “ Army Sets 2023 Hypersonic Flight
T est; Strategic Cannon Advances,” Breaking Defense, March 19, 2019, https://breakingdefense.com/2019/03/army-
sets-2023-hypersonic-flight-test-strategic-cannon-advances/.
30 Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget Estimates, Army Justification Book of Research,
Development, T est and Evaluation, Volume II, Budget Activity 4, p. 613, https://www.asafm.army.mil/Portals/72/
Documents/BudgetMaterial/2021/Base%20Budget/rdte/
RDT E_BA_4_FY_2021_PB_RDT E_Vol%202_Budget_Activity_4.pdf.
31 Department of the Army, “FY 2021: President’s Budget Highlights,” February 2020, p. 18,
https://www.asafm.army.mil/Portals/72/Documents/BudgetMaterial/2021/pbr/Overview%20and%20Highlights/
Army_FY_2021_Budget_Highlights.pdf.
32 Stephen T rimble, “ Lockheed Martin claims both USAF hypersonic programmes,” Flight Global, August 7, 2018,
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/lockheed-martin-claims-both-usaf-hypersonic-programm-450968/.
33 T he Air Force’s budget request notes that “further schedule details can be provided in the appropriate forum.”
Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget Estimates, Air Force Justification Book of Research,
Development, T est and Evaluation, Volume II, p. 128. See also Lee Hudson and Steve T rimble, “ T op U.S. Hypersonic
Weapon Program Facing New Schedule Pressure,” Aviation Week, January 11, 2019, http://aviationweek.com/defense/
top-us-hypersonic-weapon-program-facing-new-schedule-pressure.
34 Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget Estimates, Air Force Justification Book of Research,
Development, T est and Evaluation, Volume II, p. 121, https://www.saffm.hq.af.mil/Portals/84/documents/FY21/
RDT E_/FY21%20Air%20Force%20Research%20Development%20Test%20and%20Evaluation%20Vol%20II.pdf?
ver=2020-02-12-145218-377.
35 Ibid., p. 121.
36 Valerie Insinna, “ US Air Force kills one of its hypersonic weapons programs,” Defense News, February 10, 2020,
https://www.defensenews.com/smr/federal-budget/2020/02/10/the-air-force-just-canceled-one-of-its-hypersonic-
weapons-programs/.
Congressional Research Service

6

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

twice as many on the B-52, and it’s possible it could be on the F-15,” he explained.37 The Air
Force wil continue its technical review of HCSW through March 2020.38
DARPA
DARPA, in partnership with the Air Force, continues to test Tactical Boost Glide, a wedge-shaped
hypersonic glide vehicle capable of Mach 7+ flight that “aims to develop and demonstrate
technologies to enable future air-launched, tactical-range hypersonic boost glide systems.”39 TBG
wil “also consider traceability, compatibility, and integration with the Navy Vertical Launch
System” and is planned to transition to both the Air Force and the Navy. DARPA has requested
$117 mil ion—down from the $162 mil ion FY2020 request and the $152 mil ion FY2020
appropriation—for TBG in FY2021.40
DARPA’s Operational Fires reportedly seeks to leverage TBG technologies to develop a ground-
launched system that wil enable “advanced tactical weapons to penetrate modern enemy air
defenses and rapidly and precisely engage critical time sensitive targets.” DARPA has requested
$40 mil ion for OpFires in FY2021—down from the $50 mil ion FY2020 request and
appropriation—and intends to transition the program to the Army.41
In the longer term, DARPA, with Air Force support, is continuing work on the Hypersonic Air-
breathing Weapon Concept, which “seeks to develop and demonstrate critical technologies to
enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile.”42 Assistance Director
for Hypersonics Mike White has stated that such a missile would be smal er than DOD’s
hypersonic glide vehicles and could therefore launch from a wider range of platforms. Director
White has additional y noted that HAWC and other hypersonic cruise missiles could integrate
seekers more easily than hypersonic glide vehicles.43 DARPA requested $7 mil ion to develop
HAWC in FY2021—down from the $10 mil ion FY2020 request and $20 mil ion FY2020
appropriation.44

37 John A. T irpak, “Roper: T he ARRW Hypersonic Missile Better Option for USAF,” March 2, 2020,
https://www.airforcemag.com/arrw-beat-hcsw-because-its-smaller-better-for-usaf/. T irpak additionally notes that “ the
F-15 could accelerate the ARRW to Mach 3 before launch, potentially reducing the size of the booster needed to get the
weapon to hypersonic speed.”
38 Ibid.
39 “T actical Boost Glide (T BG) Program Information,” DARPA, https://www.darpa.mil/program/tactical-boost-glide;
and Guy Norris, “U.S. Air Force Plans Road Map to Operational Hypersonics,” Aviation Week, July 27, 2017,
https://aviationweek.com/defense/us-air-force-plans-road-map-operational-hypersonics.
40 DARPA states that the decline in the budget request “reflects completion of full-scale testing and final program
reporting.” Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget Estimates, Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency, Defense-Wide Justification Book 1 of 5, pp. 162-164, https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/
defbudget/fy2021/budget_just ification/pdfs/03_RDT _and_E/
RDT E_Vol1_DARPA_MasterJustificationBook_PB_2021.pdf .
41 Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget Estimates, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,
Defense-Wide Justification Book 1 of 5, p. 165, https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/
fy2021/budget_justification/pdfs/03_RDT _and_E/RDT E_Vol1_DARPA_MasterJustificationBook_PB_2021.pdf .
42 “Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) Program Information,” DARPA, https://www.darpa.mil/
program/hypersonic-air-breathing-weapon-concept.
43 “Department of Defense Press Briefing on Hypersonics,” March 2, 2020, https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/
T ranscripts/T ranscript/Article/2101062/department -of-defense-press-briefing-on-hypersonics/.
44 Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget Estimates, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,
Defense-Wide Justification Book 1 of 5, p. 165, https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/
fy2021/budget_justification/pdfs/03_RDT _and_E/RDT E_Vol1_DARPA_MasterJustificationBook_PB_2021.pdf .
Congressional Research Service

7

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

Table 1. Summary of U.S. Hypersonic Weapons Programs
FY2020
PB2021
Title
($ in millions)
($ in millions)
Schedule
Conventional Prompt
512
1,008
IOC in FY2028
Strike (CPS)
Long-Range Hypersonic
404
801
Flight tests through 2023
Weapon (LRHW)
AGM-183 Air-Launched
286
382
Flight tests through 2022
Rapid Response Weapon
(ARRW)
Hypersonic Conventional
290
0
Cancel ed in 2020
Strike Weapon (HCSW)
Tactical Boost Glide
152
117
Testing through at least
(TBG)
2021
Operational Fires
50
40
Testing through at least
(OpFires)
2021; transitions to
weapon system
integration planning and
design in 2021
Hypersonic Air-breathing
20
7
Complete flight tests in
Weapon Concept
2020; final program
(HAWC)
reviews in 2021
Source: Program information taken from U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force, and DARPA FY2021 Justification Books,
available at https://comptrol er.defense.gov/Budget-Materials/.
Hypersonic Missile Defenses45
DOD is also investing in counter-hypersonic weapons capabilities, although former USD(R&E)
Michael Griffin has stated that the United States wil not have a defensive capability against
hypersonic weapons until the mid-2020s, at the earliest.46 In September 2018, the Missile Defense
Agency (MDA)—which in 2017 established a Hypersonic Defense Program pursuant to Section
1687 of the FY2017 NDAA (P.L. 114-840)—commissioned 21 white papers to explore
hypersonic missile defense options, including interceptor missiles, hypervelocity projectiles, laser
guns, and electronic attack systems.47 In January 2020, MDA issued a draft request for prototype
proposals for a Hypersonic Defense Regional Glide Phase Weapons System interceptor. This
effort is intended to “reduce interceptor key technology and integration risks, anchor modeling
and simulation in areas of large uncertainty, and to increase the interceptor technology readiness
levels (TRL) to level 5” (validating components in a relevant environment).48 MDA has also

45 For additional information about hypersonic missile defense, see CRS In Focus IF11623, Hypersonic Missile
Defense: Issues for Congress
, by Kelley M. Sayler, Stephen M. McCall, and Quintin A. Reed.
46 “Media Availability With Deputy Secretary Shanahan and Under Secretary of Defense Griffin at NDIA Hypersonics
Senior Executive Series,” U.S. Department of Defense, December 13, 2018, https://dod.defense.gov/News/T ranscripts/
T ranscript -View/Article/1713396/media-availability-with-deputy-secretary-shanahan-and-under-secretary-of-defens/.
47 P.L. 114-840, Section 2, Division A, T itle XVI, §1687; and Hudson and T rimble, “T op U.S. Hypersonic Weapon
Program”; Steve T rimble, “A Hypersonic Sputnik?,” p. 21.
48 Missile Defense Agency, “Draft Request for Prototype Proposal: Hypersonic Defense Regional Glide Phase Weapon
System,” January 30, 2020, p. 8. T RL measures a technology’s level of maturity; T RL 5 requires validation in a
relevant environment. For information about specific T RLs, see T roy Carter, “The 9 T echnology Readiness Levels of
Congressional Research Service

8

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

awarded four companies—Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Leidos, and L3Harris—with $20
mil ion contracts to design prototype space-based (low-Earth orbit) sensors by October 31,
2020.49 Such sensors could theoretical y extend the range at which incoming missiles could be
detected and tracked—a critical requirement for hypersonic missile defense, according to then-
USD(R&E) Griffin.50 MDA requested $206.8 mil ion for hypersonic defense in FY2021—up
from its $157.4 mil ion FY2020 request—and $659 mil ion across the FYDP.51 In addition,
DARPA is working on a program cal ed Glide Breaker, which “wil develop critical component
technology to support a lightweight vehicle designed for precise engagement of hypersonic
threats at very long range.”52 DARPA requested $3 mil ion for Glide Breaker in FY2021—down
from $10 mil ion in FY2020.53
Infrastructure
According to a study mandated by the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 112-
239) and conducted by the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA),54 the United States had 48
critical hypersonic test facilities and mobile assets in 2014 needed for the maturation of
hypersonic technologies for defense systems development through 2030. These specialized
facilities, which simulate the unique conditions experienced in hypersonic flight (e.g., speed,
pressure, heating),55 included 10 DOD hypersonic ground test facilities, 11 DOD open-air ranges,
11 DOD mobile assets, 9 NASA facilities, 2 Department of Energy facilities, and 5 industry or
academic facilities.56 In its 2014 evaluation of U.S. hypersonic test and evaluation infrastructure,
IDA noted that “no current U.S. facility can provide full-scale, time-dependent, coupled
aerodynamic and thermal-loading environments for flight durations necessary to evaluate
these characteristics above Mach 8.” Since the 2014 study report was published, the University of
Notre Dame has opened a Mach 6 hypersonic wind tunnel and at least one hypersonic testing
facility has been inactivated. Development of Mach 8 and Mach 10 wind tunnels at Purdue
University and the University of Notre Dame, respectively, is ongoing.57 In addition, the
University of Arizona plans to modify one of its wind tunnels to enable Mach 5 testing by early
2021, while Texas A&M University—in partnership with Army Futures Command—plans to

the DOD,” T echLink, https://techlinkcenter.org/technology-readiness-level-dod/.
49 Sandra Erwin, “ Missile Defense Agency selects four companies to develop space sensors,” Space News, October 30,
2019, https://spacenews.com/missile-defense-agency-selects-four-companies-to-develop-space-sensors/. Experts
disagree on the cost and technological feasibility of space-based missile defense.
50 Media Availability With Deputy Secretary Shanahan and Under Secretary of Defense Griffin .”
51 Missile Defense Agency, Budget Estimates Overview: Fiscal Year 2021, p. 12, https://www.mda.mil/global/
documents/pdf/budgetfy21.pdf.
52 Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget Estimates, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,
Defense-Wide Justification Book 1 of 5, p. 164.
53 Ibid.
54 P.L. 112-239, Section 2, Division A, T itle X, §1071.
55 T hese conditions additionally require the development of specialized materials such as metals and ceramics.
56 T his list is taken directly from a 2014 Institute for Defense Analysis report and, therefore, may not be current. See
(U//FOUO) Paul F. Piscopo et al., (U) Study on the Ability of the U.S. Test and Evaluation Infrastructure to Effectively
and Efficiently Mature Hypersonic Technologies for Defense System s Developm ent: Sum mary Analysis and
Assessm ent
, Institute for Defense Analyses, September 2014. Permission to use this material has been granted by the
Office of Science and T echnology Policy.
57 Oriana Pawlyk, “ Air Force Expanding Hypersonic T echnology T esting at T wo Indiana Universities,” Military.com,
April 23, 2019, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/04/23/air-force-expanding-hypersonic-technology-testing-
two-indiana-universities.html.
Congressional Research Service

9

link to page 23 Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

complete construction of a kilometer-long Mach 10 wind tunnel by 2021.58 (For a list of U.S.
hypersonic test assets and their capabilities, see the Appendix.) The United States also uses the
Royal Australian Air Force Woomera Test Range in Australia and the Andøya Rocket Range in
Norway for flight testing.59 In January 2019, the Navy announced plans to reactivate its Launch
Test Complex at China Lake, CA, to improve air launch and underwater testing capabilities for
the conventional prompt strike program.60
In April 2020, DOD’s Office of Inspector General announced that it would be evaluating current
ground test and evaluation facilities to determine if the capability and capacity would be
sufficient to execute DOD’s planned test schedule.61 In addition, in March 2020, DOD announced
that it had established a “hypersonic war room” to assess the U.S. industrial base for hypersonic
weapons and identify “critical nodes” in the supply chain.62 Initial findings are to be released in
mid-2020.63
Russia
Although Russia has conducted research on hypersonic weapons technology since the 1980s, it
accelerated its efforts in response to U.S. missile defense deployments in both the United States
and Europe, and in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Bal istic Missile Treaty in
2001.64 Detailing Russia’s concerns, President Putin stated that “the US is permitting constant,
uncontrolled growth of the number of anti-bal istic missiles, improving their quality, and creating
new missile launching areas. If we do not do something, eventual y this wil result in the
complete devaluation of Russia’s nuclear potential. Meaning that al of our missiles could simply
be intercepted.”65 Russia thus seeks hypersonic weapons, which can maneuver as they approach
their targets, as an assured means of penetrating U.S. missile defenses and restoring its sense of
strategic stability.66

58 University of Arizona, “Mach 5 Quiet Ludwieg T ube,” https://transition.arizona.edu/facilities/qlt5?_ga=
2.62515882.768526379.1582843192 -983632914.1582843192; and Ashley T ressel, “ Army to open hypersonic testing
facility at T exas A&M,” Inside Defense, October 13, 2019, https://insidedefense.com/daily-news/army-open-
hypersonic-testing-facility-texas-am. Additional universities such as the University of Maryland, th e California
Institute of T echnology, the Georgia Institute of T echnology, the Air Force Academy, the University of T ennessee, and
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University also maintain experimental hypersonic facilities or conduct
hypersonic research.
59 (U//FOUO) Paul F. Piscopo et al., (U) Study on the Ability of the U.S. Test and Evaluation Infrastructure.
60 “Update: US Navy to develop China Lake to support CPS weapon testing,” Jane’s (subscription required), February
12, 2019, https://janes.ihs.com/Janes/Display/FG_1644858-JMR.
61 See Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, “Memorandum for Distribution: Evaluation of the Ground
T est and Evaluation Infrastructure Supporting Hypersonic Capabilities (Project No. D2020 -DEV0SN-0106.000),”
April 13, 2020, https://media.defense.gov/2020/Apr/14/2002280826/-1/-1/1/D2020-DEV0SN-0106.000.PDF.
62 Aaron Mehta, “Pentagon launches hypersonic industrial base study,” Defense News, March 3, 2020,
https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2020/03/02/pentagon-launches-hypersonic-industrial-base-study/.
63 Ibid.
64 United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, Hypersonic Weapons: A Challenge and Opportunity for Strategic
Arm s Control
, February 2019, https://www.un.org/disarmament/publications/more/hypersonic-weapons-a-challenge-
and-opportunity-for-strategic-arms-control/.
65 Vladimir Putin, “Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly,” March 1, 2018, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/
president/news/56957.
66 In this instance, “strategic stability” refers to a “bilateral nuclear relationship of mutual vulnerability.” See T ong
Zhao, “Conventional Challenges to Strategic Stability: Chinese Perceptions of Hypersonic T echnology and the Security
Dilemma,” Carnegie-T singhua Center for Global Policy, July 23, 2018, https://carnegietsinghua.org/2018/07/23/
conventional-challenges-to-strategic-stability-chinese-perceptions-of-hypersonic-technology-and-security-dilemma-
Congressional Research Service

10

link to page 14
Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

Programs
Russia is pursuing two hypersonic weapons programs—the Avangard and the 3M22 Tsirkon (or
Zircon)—and has reportedly fielded the Kinzhal (“Dagger”), a maneuvering air-launched bal istic
missile.67
Avangard (Figure 2) is a hypersonic glide vehicle launched from an intercontinental bal istic
missile (ICBM), giving it “effectively ‘unlimited’ range.”68 Reports indicate that Avangard is
currently deployed on the SS-19 Stiletto ICBM, though Russia plans to eventual y launch the
vehicle from the Sarmat ICBM. Sarmat is stil in development, although it may be deployed by
2021.69 Avangard features onboard countermeasures and wil reportedly carry a nuclear warhead.
It was successfully tested twice in 2016 and once in December 2018, reportedly reaching speeds
of Mach 20; however, an October 2017 test resulted in failure. Russian news sources claim that
Avangard entered into combat duty in December 2019.70
Figure 2. Artist Rendering of Avangard

Source: https://janes.ihs.com/Janes/Display/FG_899127-JIR.
In addition to Avangard, Russia is developing Tsirkon, a ship-launched hypersonic cruise missile
capable of traveling at speeds of between Mach 6 and Mach 8. Tsirkon is reportedly capable of
striking both ground and naval targets. According to Russian news sources, Tsirkon has a range of
between approximately 250 and 600 miles and can be fired from the vertical launch systems
mounted on cruisers Admiral Nakhimov and Pyotr Veliky, Project 20380 corvettes, Project 22350
frigates, and Project 885 Yasen-class submarines, among other platforms.71 These sources assert

pub-76894.
67 Although the Kinzhal is a maneuvering air-launched ballistic missile rather than a hypersonic glide vehicle or
hypersonic cruise missile, it is often included in reporting of Russia’s hypersonic weapons program. For this reason —
and because it poses defensive challenges that are similar to other hypersonic weapons—it is included here for
reference.
68 Steve T rimble, “A Hypersonic Sputnik?,” Aviation Week, January 14-27, 2019, p. 20.
69 Ibid. Sarmat could reportedly accommodate at least three Avangard vehicles. See Malcolm Claus, “Russia unveils
new strategic delivery systems,” Jane’s (subscription required), https://janes.ihs.com/Janes/Display/FG_899127-JIR.
70 “First regiment of Avangard hypersonic missile systems goes on combat duty in Russia,” TASS, December 27, 2019,
https://tass.com/defense/1104297.
71 “Russia makes over 10 test launches of T sirkon seaborne hypersonic missile,” TASS, December 21, 2018,
http://tass.com/defense/1037426. See also Russia Military Power: Building a Military to Support Great Power
Aspirations
, Defense Intelligence Agency, 2017, p. 79, https://www.dia.mil/portals/27/documents/news/
military%20power%20publications/russia%20military%20power%20report%202017.pdf.
Congressional Research Service

11

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

that Tsirkon was successfully launched from a Project 22350 frigate in January 2020.72 U.S.
intel igence reports indicate that the missile wil become operational in 2023.73
In addition, Russia has reportedly fielded Kinzhal, a maneuvering air-launched bal istic missile
modified from the Iskander missile. According to U.S. intel igence reports, Kinzhal was
successfully test fired from a modified MiG-31 fighter (NATO code name: Foxhound) as recently
as July 2018—striking a target at a distance of approximately 500 miles—and is expected by U.S.
intel igence sources to become ready for combat by 2020.74 Russia plans to deploy the missile on
both the MiG-31 and the Su-34 long-range strike fighter.75 Russia is working to mount the missile
on the Tu-22M3 strategic bomber (NATO code name: Backfire), although the slower-moving
bomber may face chal enges in “accelerating the weapon into the correct launch parameters.”76
Russian media has reported Kinzhal’s top speed as Mach 10, with a range of up to 1,200 miles
when launched from the MiG-31. The Kinzhal is reportedly capable of maneuverable flight, as
wel as of striking both ground and naval targets, and could eventual y be fitted with a nuclear
warhead. However, such claims regarding Kinzhal’s performance characteristics have not been
publicly verified by U.S. intel igence agencies, and have been met with skepticism by a number
of analysts.77
Infrastructure
Russia reportedly conducts hypersonic wind tunnel testing at the Central Aero-Hydrodynamic
Institute in Zhukovsky and the Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics in
Novosibirsk, and has tested hypersonic weapons at Dombarovskiy Air Base, the Baykonur
Cosmodrome, and the Kura Range.78
China
According to Tong Zhao, a fel ow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, “most
experts argue that the most important reason to prioritize hypersonic technology development [in

72 “T ASS: Russia Conducts First Ship-Based Hypersonic Missile T est ,” Reuters, February 27, 2020,
https://www.voanews.com/europe/tass-russia-conducts-first-ship-based-hypersonic-missile-test.
73 Amanda Macias, “ Russia again successfully tests ship-based hypersonic missile—which will likely be ready for
combat by 2022,” CNBC, December 20, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/20/russia-tests-hypersonic-missile-that-
could-be-ready-for-war-by-2022.html; and “ Russian Navy to accept latest T sirkon hypersonic missile for service in
2023—source,” TASS, March 20, 2019, http://tass.com/defense/1049572.
74 Amanda Macias, “Russia’s new hypersonic missile, which can be launched from warplanes, will likely be ready for
combat by 2020,” CNBC, July 13, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/13/russia-new-hypersonic-missile-likely-
ready-for-war-by-2020.html.
75 Mark B. Schneider, “Moscow’s Development of Hypersonic Missiles … and What It Means” in Defense Technology
Program Brief: Hypersonic Weapons
, American Foreign Policy Council, May 17, 2019.
76 Dave Majumdar, “ Russia: New Kinzhal Aero-Ballistic Missile Has 3,000 km Range if Fired from Supersonic
Bomber,” The National Interest, July 18, 2018, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/russia-new-kinzhal-aero-ballistic-
missile-has-3000-km-range-if-fired-supersonic-bomber.
77 David Axe, “ Is Kinzhal, Russia’s New Hypersonic Missile, a Game Changer?,” The Daily Beast, March 15, 2018,
https://www.thedailybeast.com/is-kinzhal-russias-new-hypersonic-missile-a-game-changer.
78 “Aerodynamics,” Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, http://tsagi.com/research/aerodynamics/; “Russia announces
successful flight test of Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle,” Jane’s (subscription required), January 3, 2019,
https://janes.ihs.com/Janes/Display/FG_1451630-JMR; and “ Avangard system is tested, said to be fully ready for
deployment ,” Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, December 26, 2018, http://russianforces.org/blog/2018/12/
avangard_system_is_tested_said.shtml.
Congressional Research Service

12

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

China] is the necessity to counter specific security threats from increasingly sophisticated U.S.
military technology,” such as U.S. regional missile defenses.79 In particular, China’s pursuit of
hypersonic weapons, like Russia’s, reflects a concern that U.S. hypersonic weapons could enable
the United States to conduct a preemptive, decapitating strike on China’s nuclear arsenal and
supporting infrastructure. U.S. missile defense deployments could then limit China’s ability to
conduct a retaliatory strike against the United States.80
China has demonstrated a growing interest in Russian advances in hypersonic weapons
technology, conducting flight tests of a hypersonic-glide vehicle (HGV) only days after Russia
tested its own system.81 Furthermore, a January 2017 report found that over half of open-source
Chinese papers on hypersonic weapons include references to Russian weapons programs.82 This
could indicate that China is increasingly considering hypersonic weapons within a regional
context. Indeed, some analysts believe that China may be planning to mate conventional y armed
HGVs with the DF-21 and DF-26 bal istic missiles in support of an anti-access/area denial
strategy.83 China has reportedly not made a final determination as to whether its hypersonic
weapons wil be nuclear- or conventional y-armed—or dual-capable.
Programs
China has conducted a number of successful tests of the DF-17, a medium-range bal istic missile
specifical y designed to launch HGVs. U.S. intel igence analysts assess that the missile has a
range of approximately 1,000 to 1,500 miles and could be deployed in 2020.84 China has also
tested the DF-41 intercontinental bal istic missile, which could be modified to carry a
conventional or nuclear HGV, according to a report by a U.S. Congressional commission. The
development of the DF-41 thus “significantly increases the [Chinese] rocket force’s nuclear threat
to the U.S. mainland,” the report states.85
China has tested the DF-ZF HGV (previously referred to as the WU-14) at least nine times since
2014. U.S. defense officials have reportedly identified the range of the DF-ZF as approximately
1,200 miles and have stated that the missile may be capable of performing “extreme maneuvers”

79 T ong Zhao, “ Conventional Challenges to Strategic Stability: Chinese Perceptions of Hypersonic T echnology and the
Security Dilemma.”
80 T ong Zhao, “ Conventional Challenges to Strategic Stability”; and Lora Saalman, “China’s Calculus on Hypersonic
Glide,” August 15, 2017, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, https://www.sipri.org/commentary/topical-
backgrounder/2017/chinas-calculus-hypersonic-glide.
81 Lora Saalman, “China’s Calculus on Hypersonic Glide.”
82 Lora Saalman, “Factoring Russia into the US-China Equation on Hypersonic Glide Vehicles,” SIPRI, January 2017,
https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/Factoring-Russia-into-US-Chinese-equation-hypersonic-glide-vehicles.pdf.
83 Lora Saalman, “China’s Calculus on Hypersonic Glide”; and Malcolm Claus and Andrew T ate, “Chinese hypersonic
programme reflects regional priorities,” Jane’s (subscription required), March 12, 2019, https://janes.ihs.com/Janes/
Display/FG_1731069-JIR.
84 Ankit Panda, “ Introducing the DF-17: China’s Newly T ested Ballistic Missile Armed with a Hypersonic Glide
Vehicle,” The National Interest, December 28, 2017, https://thediplomat.com/2017/12/introducing-the-df-17-chinas-
newly-tested-ballistic-missile-armed-with-a-hypersonic-glide-vehicle/; and Bill Gertz, “ China’s new hypersonic
missile,” Washington Tim es, October 2, 2019, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/oct/2/china-shows-df-17-
hypersonic-missile/.
85 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission 2018 Annual Report, p. 235, https://www.uscc.gov/sites/
default/files/annual_reports/2018%20Annual%20Report%20to%20Congress.pdf.
Congressional Research Service

13

link to page 18 Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

during flight.86 Although unconfirmed by intel igence agencies, some analysts believe the DF-ZF
wil be operational as early as 2020.87
According to U.S. defense officials, China also successfully tested Starry Sky-2 (or Xing Kong-
2), a nuclear-capable hypersonic vehicle prototype, in August 2018.88 China claims the vehicle
reached top speeds of Mach 6 and executed a series of in-flight maneuvers before landing.89
Unlike the DF-ZF, Starry Sky-2 is a “waverider” that uses powered flight after launch and derives
lift from its own shockwaves. Some reports indicate that the Starry Sky-2 could be operational by
2025.90 U.S. officials have declined to comment on the program.91
Infrastructure
China has a robust research and development infrastructure devoted to hypersonic weapons.
Then-USD(R&E) Michael Griffin stated in March 2018 that China has conducted 20 times as
many hypersonic tests as the United States.92 China tested three hypersonic vehicle models (D18-
1S, D18-2S, and D18-3S)—each with different aerodynamic properties—in September 2018.93
Analysts believe that these tests could be designed to help China develop weapons that fly at
variable speeds, including hypersonic speeds. Similarly, China has used the Lingyun Mach 6+
high-speed engine, or “scramjet,” test bed (Figure 3) to research thermal resistant components
and hypersonic cruise missile technologies.94

86 “Gliding missiles that fly faster than Mach 5 are coming,” The Economist, April 6, 2019,
https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2019/04/06/gliding-missiles-that -fly-faster-than-mach-5-are-
coming; and Franz-Stefan Gady, “ China T ests New Weapon Capable of Breaching US Missile Defense Systems,” The
Diplom at
, April 28, 2016, https://thediplomat.com/2016/04/china-tests-new-weapon-capable-of-breaching-u-s-missile-
defense-systems/.
87 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission 2015 Annual Report, p. 20, https://www.uscc.gov/sites/
default/files/annual_reports/2015%20Annual%20Report%20to%20Congress.PDF.
88 Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the
People’s Republic of China 2019,
May 2, 2019, p. 44, https://media.defense.gov/2019/May/02/2002127082/-1/-1/1/
2019_CHINA_MILIT ARY_POWER_REPORT.pdf .
89 Jessie Yeung, “ China claims to have successfully tested its first hypersonic aircraft .
CNN, August 7, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/07/china/china-hypersonic-aircraft-intl/index.html.
90 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Report 2015, p. 20.
91 Bill Gertz, “ China Reveals T est of New Hypersonic Missile,” The Washington Free Beacon, August 10, 2018,
https://freebeacon.com/national-security/chinas-reveals-test-new-hypersonic-missile/.
92 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Report 2015, p. 20.
93 Malcolm Claus and Andrew T ate, “ Chinese hypersonic programme reflects regional priorities,” Jane’s (subscription
required), March 12, 2019, https://janes.ihs.com/Janes/Display/FG_1731069-JIR.
94 Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer, “ China’s hypersonic military projects include spaceplanes and rail guns,” Popular
Mechanics
, June 26, 2018, https://www.popsci.com/chinas-hypersonic-work-speeds-up.
Congressional Research Service

14


Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

Figure 3. Lingyun-1 Hypersonic Cruise Missile Prototype

Source: Photo accompanying Drake Long, “China reveals Lingyun-1 hypersonic missile at National Science and
Technology expo,” The Defense Post, May 21, 2018.
According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, “China is also investing heavily in hypersonic ground
testing facilities.”95 CAAA operates the FD-02, FD-03, and FD-07 hypersonic wind tunnels,
which are capable of reaching speeds of Mach 8, Mach 10, and Mach 12, respectively.96 China
also operates the JF-12 hypersonic wind tunnel, which reaches speeds of between Mach 5 and
Mach 9, and the FD-21 hypersonic wind tunnel, which reaches speeds of between Mach 10 and
Mach 15.97 China is expected to have an operational wind tunnel capable of reaching speeds of
Mach 25 by 2020.98 China is known to have tested hypersonic weapons at the Jiuquan Satel ite
Launch Center and the Taiyuan Satel ite Launch Center.

95 T ate, “China conducts further tests.”
96 Kelvin Wong, “ China claims successful test of hypersonic waverider,” Jane’s (subscription required), August 10,
2018, https://janes.ihs.com/Janes/Display/FG_1002295-JDW.
97 Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer, “A look at China’s most exciting hypersonic aerospace programs,” Popular Science,
April 18, 2017, https://www.popsci.com/chinas-hypersonic-technology.
98 T ate, “China conducts further tests.”
Congressional Research Service

15

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

Global Hypersonic Weapons Programs
Although the United States, Russia, and China possess the most advanced hypersonic weapons programs, a
number of other countries—including Australia, India, France, and Germany—are also developing hypersonic
weapons technology. Since 2007, the United States has col aborated with Australia on the Hyperson ic
International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) program to develop hypersonic technologies. The most
recent HIFiRE test, successful y conducted in July 2017, explored the flight dynamics of a Mach 8 hypersonic glide
vehicle, while previous tests explored scramjet engine technologies. In addition to the Woomera Test Range
facilities—one of the largest weapons test facilities in the world—Australia operates seven hypersonic wind
tunnels and is capable of testing speeds of up to Mach 30.
India has similarly col aborated with Russia on the development of BrahMos II, a Mach 7 hypersonic cruise missile.
Although BrahMos II was initial y intended to be fielded in 2017, news reports indicate that the program faces
significant delays and is now scheduled to achieve initial operational capability between 2025 and 2028. Reportedly,
India is also developing an indigenous hypersonic cruise missile as part of its Hypersonic Technology
Demonstrator Vehicle program and successful y tested a Mach 6 scramjet in June 2019. India operates
approximately 12 hypersonic wind tunnels and is capable of testing speeds of up to Mach 13.
France also has col aborated and contracted with Russia on the development of hypersonic technology. Although
France has been investing in hypersonic technology research since the 1990s, it has only recently announced its
intent to weaponize the technology. Under the V-max (Experimental Maneuvering Vehicle) program, France plans
to modify its air-to-surface ASN4G supersonic missile for hypersonic flight by 2022. Some analysts believe that the
V-max program is intended to provide France with a strategic nuclear weapon. France operates five hypersonic
wind tunnels and is capable of testing speeds of up to Mach 21.
Germany successful y tested an experimental hypersonic glide vehicle (SHEFEX II) in 2012; however, reports
indicate that Germany may have pul ed funding for the program. German defense contractor DLR continues to
research and test hypersonic vehicles as part of the European Union’s ATLAS II project, which seeks to design a
Mach 5-6 vehicle. Germany operates three hypersonic wind tunnels and is capable of testing speeds of up to
Mach 11.
Final y, Japan is developing the Hypersonic Cruise Missile (HCM) and the Hyper Velocity Gliding Projectile
(HVGP). According to Jane’s, Japan invested $122 mil ion in HVGP in FY2019. It reportedly plans to field one
HVGP warhead for neutralizing aircraft carriers and one for area suppression—both in the 2024 to 2028
timeframe. The warheads are expected to enter service in 2030. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
operates three hypersonic wind tunnels, with two additional facilities at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the
University of Tokyo.
Other countries—including Iran, Israel, and South Korea—have conducted foundational research on hypersonic
airflows and propulsion systems, but may not be pursuing a hypersonic weapons capability at this time.
Note: For additional information about global hypersonic weapons programs, see Richard H. Speier et al., Hypersonic
Missile Proliferation. For information about Japan’s hypersonic weapons research and development plans, see Mike Yeo,
“Japan unveils its hypersonic weapons plans,” Defense News, March 14, 2020.

Issues for Congress
As Congress reviews the Pentagon’s plans for U.S. hypersonic weapons programs during the
annual authorization and appropriations process, it might consider a number of questions about
the rationale for hypersonic weapons, their expected costs, and their implications for strategic
stability and arms control. This section provides an overview of some of these questions.
Mission Requirements
Although the Department of Defense is funding a number of hypersonic weapons programs, it has
not established any programs of record, suggesting that it may not have approved requirements
for hypersonic weapons or long-term funding plans.99 Indeed, as Assistant Director for
Hypersonics (USD[R&E]) Mike White has stated, DOD has not yet made a decision to acquire

99 Steve T rimble, “New Long-T erm Pentagon Plan Boosts Hypersonics.”
Congressional Research Service

16

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

hypersonic weapons and is instead developing prototypes to “[identify] the most viable
overarching weapon system concepts to choose from and then make a decision based on success
and chal enges.”100 As Congress conducts oversight of U.S. hypersonic weapons programs, it may
seek to obtain information about DOD’s evaluation of potential mission sets for hypersonic
weapons, a cost analysis of alternative means of executing these mission sets, and an assessment
of the enabling technologies—such as space-based sensors or autonomous command and control
systems—that may be required to employ or defend against hypersonic weapons.
Funding Considerations
Assistant Director for Hypersonics (USD[R&E]) Mike White has noted that DOD is prioritizing
offensive programs while it determines “the path forward to get a robust defensive strategy.”101
This approach is reflected in DOD’s FY2021 request, which al ocates $206.8 mil ion for
hypersonic defense programs—of a total $3.2 bil ion request for al hypersonic-related
research.102 Similarly, in FY2020, DOD requested $157.4 mil ion for hypersonic defense
programs—of a total $2.6 bil ion for al hypersonic-related research.
Although the Defense Subcommittees of the Appropriations Committees increased FY2020
appropriations for both hypersonic offense and defense above the FY2020 request, they expressed
concerns, noting in their joint explanatory statement of H.R. 1158 “that the rapid growth in
hypersonic research has the potential to result in stove-piped, proprietary systems that duplicate
capabilities and increase costs.”103 To mitigate this concern, they appropriated $100 mil ion for
DOD to establish a Joint Hypersonic Transition Office to “develop and implement an integrated
science and technology roadmap for hypersonics” and “establish a university consortium for
hypersonic research and workforce development” in support of DOD efforts.104 Given the lack of
defined mission requirements for hypersonic weapons, it may be chal enging for Congress to
evaluate the balance of funding for hypersonic weapons programs, enabling technologies,
supporting test infrastructure, and hypersonic missile defense.
Strategic Stability
Analysts disagree about the strategic implications of hypersonic weapons. Some have identified
two factors that could hold significant implications for strategic stability: the weapon’s short
time-of-flight—which, in turn, compresses the timeline for response—and its unpredictable flight

100 Ibid.
101 Aaron Mehta, “Is the Pentagon Moving Quickly Enough on Hypersonic Defense?” Defense News, March 21, 2019,
https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2019/03/21/is-the-pentagon-moving-quickly-enough-on-hypersonic-defense/.
102Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget Estimates, Missile Defense Agency Defense -Wide
Justification Book Volume 2a of 5, p. 10, https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2021/
budget_justification/pdfs/03_RDT _and_E/RDT E_Vol2_MDA_RDT E_PB21_Justification_Book.pdf .
103 “Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2020: Joint Explanatory Statement,” Defense Subcommittees of the
Appropriations Committees, December 16, 2019, https://appropriations.house.gov/sites/
democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/HR%201158%20-%20Division%20A%20-
%20Defense%20SOM%20FY20.pdf.
104 Ibid. T he Joint Hypersonic T ransition Office, then called the Joint T echnology Office on Hypersonics, was
originally mandated by Section 218 of the FY2007 NDAA ( P.L. 109-364). The office was redesignated as the Joint
Hypersonics T ransition Office and given additional authorities in Section 214 of the FY2018 NDAA (P.L. 115-91).
Section 216 of the FY2020 NDAA (P.L. 116-92) further amended the office’s authorities to include the ability to enter
into agreements with institutions of higher learning. T he office went unfunded until FY2020 and was not established
until April 2020.
Congressional Research Service

17

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

path—which could generate uncertainty about the weapon’s intended target and therefore
heighten the risk of miscalculation or unintended escalation in the event of a conflict. This risk
could be further compounded in countries that co-locate nuclear and conventional capabilities or
facilities.
Some analysts argue that unintended escalation could occur as a result of warhead ambiguity, or
from the inability to distinguish between a conventional y armed hypersonic weapon and a
nuclear-armed one. However, as a United Nations report notes, “even if a State did know that an
HGV launched toward it was conventional y armed, it may stil view such a weapon as strategic
in nature, regardless of how it was perceived by the State firing the weapon, and decide that a
strategic response was warranted.”105 Differences in threat perception and escalation ladders
could thus result in unintended escalation. Such concerns have previously led Congress to restrict
funding for conventional prompt strike programs.106
Other analysts have argued that the strategic implications of hypersonic weapons are minimal.
Pavel Podvig, a senior research fel ow at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research,
has noted that the weapons “don’t … change much in terms of strategic balance and military
capability.”107 This, some analysts argue, is because U.S. competitors such as China and Russia
already possess the ability to strike the United States with intercontinental bal istic missiles,
which, when launched in salvos, could overwhelm U.S. missile defenses.108 Furthermore, these
analysts note that in the case of hypersonic weapons, traditional principles of deterrence hold: “it
is real y a stretch to try to imagine any regime in the world that would be so suicidal that it would
even think threating to use—not to mention to actual y use—hypersonic weapons against the
United States ... would end wel .”109
Arms Control
Some analysts who believe that hypersonic weapons could present a threat to strategic stability or
inspire an arms race have argued that the United States should take measures to mitigate risks or
limit the weapons’ proliferation. Proposed measures include expanding New START, negotiating
new multilateral arms control agreements, and undertaking transparency and confidence-building
measures.110
The New START Treaty, a strategic offensive arms treaty between the United States and Russia,
does not currently cover weapons that fly on a bal istic trajectory for less than 50% of their flight,
as do hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles.111 However, Article V of the treaty

105 United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, Hypersonic Weapons.
106 For a history of legislative activity on conventional prompt global strike, see CRS Report R41464, Conventional
Prom pt Global Strike and Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues
, by Amy F. Woolf.
107 Amy Mackinnon, “ Russia’s New Missiles Are Aimed at the U.S.,” Foreign Policy, March 5, 2019,
https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/03/05/russias-new-missiles-are-aimed-at-you-weapons-hypersonic-putin-united-states-
inf/.
108 David Axe, “ How the U.S. Is Quietly Winning the Hypersonic Arms Race,” The Daily Beast, January 16, 2019,
https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-the-us-is-quietly-winning-the-hypersonic-arms-race. See also Mark B. Schneider,
“Moscow’s Development of Hypersonic Missiles,” p. 14.
109 Jyri Raitasalo, “ Hypersonic Weapons are No Game-Changer,” The National Interest, January 5, 2019,
https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/hypersonic-weapons-are-no-game-changer-40632.
110 See United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, Hypersonic Weapon; and Richard H. Speier et al., Hypersonic
Missile Proliferation.

111 In some cases, hypersonic glide vehicles may be launched from intercontinental ballistic missiles that are already
covered by New ST ART , as is reported to be the case with Russia’s Avangard HGV. See Rachel S. Cohen,
Congressional Research Service

18

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

states that “when a Party believes that a new kind of strategic offensive arm is emerging, that
Party shal have the right to raise the question of such a strategic offensive arm for consideration
in the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC).” Accordingly, some legal experts hold that the
United States could raise the issue in the BCC of negotiating to include hypersonic weapons in
the New START limits.112 However, because New START is due to expire in 2021, unless
extended through 2026, this solution is likely to be temporary.113
As an alternative, some analysts have proposed negotiating a new international arms control
agreement that would institute a moratorium or ban on hypersonic weapon testing. These analysts
argue that a test ban would be a “highly verifiable” and “highly effective” means of preventing a
potential arms race and preserving strategic stability.114 Other analysts have countered that a test
ban would be infeasible, as “no clear technical distinction can be made between hypersonic
missiles and other conventional capabilities that are less prompt, have shorter ranges, and also
have the potential to undermine nuclear deterrence.”115 These analysts have instead proposed
international transparency and confidence-building measures, such as exchanging weapons data;
conducting joint technical studies; “providing advance notices of tests; choosing separate,
distinctive launch locations for tests of hypersonic missiles; and placing restraints on sea-based
tests.”116

“Hypersonic Weapons: Strategic Asset or T actical T ool?”
112 James Acton notes: “during [New ST ART ] negotiations, Russia argued that boost -glide weapons might constitute ‘a
new kind of strategic offensive arm,’ in which case they would trigger bilateral discussions about whether and how
they would be regulated by the treaty—a position [then] rejected by the United States.” James M. Acton, Silver Bullet?:
Asking the Right Questions about Conventional Prom pt Global Strike
, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
2013, p. 139, https://carnegieendowment.org/files/cpgs.pdf.
113 CRS Report R41219, The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions, by Amy F. Woolf.
114 Mark Gubrud, “T est Ban for Hypersonic Missiles?” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, August 6, 2015,
https://thebulletin.org/roundtable/test-ban-for-hypersonic-missiles/.
115 T ong Zhao, “T est Ban for Hypersonic Missiles?”
116 Rajaram Nagappa, “T est Ban for Hypersonic Missiles?”; see also James M. Acton, Silver Bullet?, pp. 134-138.
Congressional Research Service

19

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

Appendix. U.S. Hypersonic Testing Infrastructure117
Table A-1. DOD Hypersonic Ground Test Facilities
Facility
Capability
Location
Air Force Arnold Engineering and
Tunnel A: 40-inch Mach 1.5-5.5; up
Arnold AFB, TN
Development Complex (AEDC) von
to 290 °F
Karman Gas Dynamics Facility
Tunnel B: 50-inch Mach 6 and 8; up
Tunnels A/B/C
to 900 °F
Tunnel C: 50-inch Mach 10; up to
1700 °F
Air Force AEDC High-Enthalpy
Simulate thermal and pressure
Arnold AFB, TN
Aerothermal Test Arc-Heated
environments at speeds of up to
Facilities H1, H2, H3
Mach 8
Air Force AEDC Tunnel 9
59-inch Mach 7, 8,10, 14, and18; up White Oak, MD
to 2900 °F
Air Force AEDC Aerodynamic and
Mach 3.1-7.2; up to 1300 °F
Arnold AFB, TN
Propulsion Test Unit
Air Force AEDC Aerobal istic Range
Launches projectiles of up to 8
Arnold AFB, TN
G
inches in diameter at speeds of up
to Mach 20
Hol oman High Speed Test Track
59,971 ft. track; launches
Hol oman AFB, NM
projectiles at speeds of up to Mach
8
Air Force Research Laboratory
Mach 3-7
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH
(AFRL) Cel s 18, 22
AFRL Laser Hardened Materials
High-temperature materials testing
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH
Evaluation Laboratory (LHMEL)
AFRL Mach 6 High Reynolds
10-inch Mach 6
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH
Number (Re) Facility
Test Resource Management Center
Up to Mach 8; up to 4040 °F
Arnold AFB, TN
Hypersonic Aeropropulsion Clean
Air Test-bed Facility
Source: (U//FOUO) Paul F. Piscopo et al. Air Force AEDC Tunnel 9 was upgraded in 2019 to enable Mach 18
testing. See “Department of Defense Press Briefing on Hypersonics,” March 2, 2020, https://www.defense.gov/
Newsroom/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/2101062/department-of-defense-press-briefing-on-hypersonics/.

117 T he following information is derived from the 2014 report (U//FOUO) Paul F. Piscopo et al., (U) Study on the
Ability of the U.S. Test and Evaluation Infrastructure
, and therefore, may not be current. Permission to use this material
has been granted by the Office of Science and T echnology Policy.
Congressional Research Service

20

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

Table A-2. DOD Open-Air Ranges
Range
Location
Ronald Reagan Bal istic Missile
Kwajalein Atol , Republic of the
Defense Test Site
Marshal Islands
Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF)
Kauai, HI
Western Range, 30th Space Wing
Vandenberg AFB, CA
Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons
Point Mugu and China Lake, CA
(NAWC) Division
White Sands Missile Range (WSMR)
New Mexico
Eastern Range, 45th Space Wing
Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station/Patrick AFB/Kennedy
Space Center, FL
NASA Wal ops Flight Facility
Wal ops Island, VA
Pacific Spaceport Complex (formerly
Kodiak Island, AK
Kodiak Launch Complex)
NAWC Weapons Division R-2508
Edwards AFB, CA
Complex
Utah Test and Training Range
Utah
Nevada Test and Training Range
Nevada
Source: (U//FOUO) Paul F. Piscopo et al.

Table A-3. DOD Mobile Assets
Asset
Navy Mobile Instrumentation
System
PMRF Mobile At-sea Sensor System
MDA Mobile Instrumentation
System Pacific Col ector
MDA Mobile Instrumentation
System Pacific Tracker
Kwajalein Mobile Range Safety
System 2
United States Navy Ship Lorenzen
missile range instrumentation ship
Sea-based X-band Radar
Aircraft Mobile Instrumentation
Systems
Transportable Range Augmentation
and Control System
Re-locatable MPS-36 Radar
Transportable Telemetry System
Source: (U//FOUO) Paul F. Piscopo et al.
Congressional Research Service

21

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress


Table A-4. NASA Research-Related Facilities
Facility
Capability

Location
Ames Research Center (ARC) High-temperature

Mountain View, CA
Arc Jet Complex
materials testing
ARC Hypervelocity Free
Launches projectiles
at
Mountain View, CA
Flight Facilities
speeds of up to Mach 23
Langley Research Center
31-inch Mach 10, 20-inch

Hampton, VA
(LaRC) Aerothermodynamics
Mach 6, and 15-inch Mach
Laboratory
6
LaRC 8-foot High
96-inch Mach 5 and Mach

Hampton, VA
Temperature Tunnel
6.5
LaRC Scramjet Test Complex
Up to Mach 8 and up to

Hampton, VA
4740 °F
LaRC HyPulse Facility
Currently inactive

Long Island, NY
Glenn Research Center
Mach 5, 6, and 7 and up to

Sandusky, OH
(GRC) Plumbrook Hypersonic
3830 °F
Tunnel Facility Arc Jet Facility
GRC Propulsion Systems
Mach 6

Cleveland, OH
Laboratory 4
GRC 1’ x 1’ Supersonic Wind
12-inch Mach 1.3-6 (10

Cleveland, OH
Tunnel
discrete airspeeds) and up
to 640 °F
Source: (U//FOUO) Paul F. Piscopo et al.

Table A-5. Department of Energy Research-Related Facilities
Facility
Capability
Location
Sandia National Laboratories Solar
High-temperature materials testing
Albuquerque, NM
Thermal Test Facility
and aerodynamic heating simulation
Sandia National Laboratories
18-inch Mach 5, 8, and 14
Albuquerque, NM
Hypersonic Wind Tunnel
Source: (U//FOUO) Paul F. Piscopo et al.

Table A-6. Industry/Academic Research-Related Facilities
Facility
Capability
Location
CUBRC Large Energy National
LENS 1: Mach 6-22
Buffalo, NY
Shock (LENS)-1/-II/-XX Tunnels
LENS II: Mach 2-12
LENS XX: Atmospheric re-entry
simulation
ATK-GASL Test Bay 4


Boeing Polysonic Wind Tunnel
48-inch up to Mach 5
St. Louis, MO
Congressional Research Service

22

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress

Lockheed Martin High Speed Wind
48-inch Mach .3-5
Dal as, TX
Tunnel
Boeing/Air Force Office of Scientific
9.5-inch Mach 6
West Lafayette, IN
Research (AFOSR) Quiet Tunnel at
Purdue University
AFOSR-University of Notre Dame
24-inch Mach 6
Notre Dame, IN
Quiet Tunnel
Sources: (U//FOUO) Paul F. Piscopo et al.; Oriana Pawlyk, “Air Force Expanding Hypersonic Technology
Testing”; University of Arizona, “Mach 5 Quiet Ludwieg Tube”; and Ashley Tressel, “Army to open hypersonic
testing facility.”
Notes: Hypersonic wind tunnels are under construction at the fol owing universities: Texas A&M University
(Mach 10 quiet tunnel expected to be complete in 2021), the University of Arizona (Mach 5 quiet tunnel
expected to be complete in 2021), Purdue University (Mach 8 quiet tunnel expected to be complete in 2022),
and the University of Notre Dame (Mach 10 quiet tunnel expected to be complete in 2023). Additional
universities, such as the University of Maryland, the California Institute of Technology, the Georgia Institute of
Technology, the Air Force Academy, the University of Tennessee Space Institute, and Virginia Polytechnic
Institute and State University, also maintain experimental hypersonic facilities or conduct hypersonic research.


Author Information

Kelley M. Sayler

Analyst in Advanced Technology and Global
Security



Disclaimer
This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan
shared staff to congressional committees and Members of Congress. It operates solely at the behest of and
under the direction of Congress. Information in a CRS Report should n ot be relied upon for purposes other
than public understanding of information that has been provided by CRS to Members of Congress in
connection with CRS’s institutional role. CRS Reports, as a work of the United States Government, are not
subject to copyright protection in the United States. Any CRS Report may be reproduced and distributed in
its entirety without permission from CRS. However, as a CRS Report may include copyrighted images or
material from a third party, you may need to obtain the permission of the copyright holder if you wish to
copy or otherwise use copyrighted material.

Congressional Research Service
R45811 · VERSION 10 · UPDATED
23