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JUNE 2021

Hypersonic Weapons: The Perfect Tool for Asymmetrical Warfare

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Hypersonic Weapons: The Perfect Tool for Asymmetrical Warfare

Image: russianplanes.net / Artem Anikeev

Written by Federico Pieraccini; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org

As recently confirmed in a debate at the Brookings Institute by the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General Robert Neller, “there are military areas in which the United States maintains a technological advantage [over Russia and China], others in which there is substantial parity, and others in which the United States is lagging behind, revealing a technological gap with its peer competitors”.

The last point applies to weapons systems designed to operate at hypersonic speed. Let us start with the simple and pragmatic definition offered by The National Interest of hypersonic vehicles and weapons:

A hypersonic vehicle is one that moves through the atmosphere at a minimum speed of five times that of sound, or Mach 5. A hypersonic cruise missile travels continuously through the air employing a special high-powered engine. A hypersonic glide vehicle [HGV] is launched into space atop a ballistic missile, after which it maneuvers through the upper reaches of the atmosphere until it dives towards its target. Both vehicle types can carry either conventional or nuclear weapons.

As we can see, we are speaking here about technological developments that require money and scientific structures of the highest level to achieve such significant and complex results. The difficulty of implementing systems of such complexity is very well explained by Defense Review:

One of DR’s primary questions about the Russian and Chinese HAA/HGV [Hypersonic Attack Aircraft/Hypersonic Glide Vehicle] tech is whether or not the vehicles generate a plasma field/shield around it that can effectively camouflage the vehicle and/or disrupt an incoming high-powered laser beam, and thus avoid both detection and destruction during its flight. Russian scientists and military aircraft designers/developers have been experimenting with plasma field generation tech since the late 1970’s, so one would think they’re pretty far along by now. Oh, and let’s not forget China’s recent development of a new ultra-thin, lightweight “tunable” UHF microwave radar-absorbing stealth/cloaking material for both manned and unmanned combat aircraft and warships. The hits just seem to keep on coming. Its enough to drive a military defense analyst to drink.

Another area of complexity concerns the communication between the hypersonic flight carrier and and its land-based components, especially if the re-entry vehicle is to be maneuvered remotely.

The fundamental component in performing a hypersonic flight naturally lies in the engines, used to reach speeds higher than Mach 7. There are ongoing studies by all of these countries concerning scramjet engines, essential for the purposes of producing hypersonic weapons. By employing a scramjet engine, and mixing it with other technologies (jet engine or ramjet), one would enable the aircraft and missiles to reach hypersonic speeds, as Beijing’s Power Machinery Research Institute explains:

The turbo-aided rocket-augmented ram/scramjet engine (TRRE), which uses rocket augmentation to aid the transition into the supersonic and hypersonic flight regimes, could be the world’s first combined cycle engine to fly in 2025, paving the way for hypersonic -space planes and single-stage space launchers.

DARPA also explains the US point of view on this particular area of research:

Advanced Full Range Engine program (AFRE) which is intended as a reusable hypersonic engine that combines an off-the-shelf jet engine with a dual mode ramjet engine.

War Is Boring definitively clarifies the concept using simpler words:

Turbojet? Ramjet? Scramjet? A turbojet spins a lot of blades to compress and heat incoming air. A ramjet moves so fast that the engine is already hot and compressed enough to ignite the fuel. A scramjet – short for “supersonic combustion ramjet”  is just that, a ramjet where the incoming air is moving at supersonic speeds.

The world of hypersonic weapons is divided into four types: hypersonic cruise missiles, which are surface- or air-launched; hypersonic glide vehicles, brought to high altitude by missiles or jets, re-entering the atmosphere at very high speeds while maneuvering, and able to hit targets with conventional or nuclear bombs; hypersonic attack aircraft, which are vehicles that fly at hypersonic speeds and are capable of taking off and landing, and are therefore useful for surveillance purposes but potentially also for attack; and finally, hypersonic anti-ship missiles.

Let’s examine them one by one, listing the current respective stages of research, development and testing of the countries in question.

The first type of hypersonic weapons are the easiest to understand. Simply put, these are cruise missiles with scramjet engines that are capable of accelerating to hypersonic speeds.

Hypersonic cruise Missiles (excluding anti-ship weapons available below) United States (testing phase)

Russia/India (testing phase)

  • BrahMos-II is a hypersonic missile currently under development in India and Russia

The most discussed weapon is the hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV). What exactly a HGV is can be explained as follows:

HGVs are unmanned, rocket-launched, maneuverable aircraft that glide and “skip” through the earth’s atmosphere at incredibly fast speeds. Compared to conventional ballistic systems, HGV warheads can be much higher, lower altitudes and less-trackable trajectories. The defense systems approach leaves less time to intercept the warhead before it drops its payload.

Glide Weapon/Hypersonic Glide Vehicle:

United States (experimental phase)

  • For years, the US has worked on missiles that can be used as a Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) weapon, which is a rocket glider that can reach speeds of 20,921 kilometers per hour, or Mach 20, and then uses a scramjet/ramjet engine to perform maneuvers. Currently, the United States is in the research and development phase of experimenting with an Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) known as the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2)

Russia (entering into service in 2019)

  • KH-47M 2 Kinzhal (Dagger). An air-launched, modified Zircon missile launched from a MiG-31.

China (test phase)

  • DF-17/DF-ZF/WU-14 – Hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) medium-range system, with a range of between 1,800 and 2,500 kilometers.

As we can see, Russia is almost ready to start mass production of their HGVs, while the US is still in the early phase of experimentation, and China is already undertaking numerous tests.

The most complicated factor with hypersonic technology concerns the Hypersonic Attack Aircraft (HAA), equipped with scramjet engines and able to attain hypersonic speeds, but with the added benefit of being able to take off and land. They are to be unmanned and can be used for surveillance or attack purposes.

Hypersonic Attack Aircraft

United States (unknown phase)

  • No known projects, much speculation about tests and scientific research. For example, the US military created in 1996 a program called SHAAFT. Now the US Military is working on a number of prototypes:

Russia (testing phase)

China (testing phase)

  • TENGYUN is a hypersonic aircraft powered during the first stage by a turbine rocket combined cycle (TRCC) engine, which then launches a reusable second-stage rocket to reach the stratosphere.

Because scramjet technology, on which HAA systems rely, is still in its early phases of development, this weapon system is unlikely to see the light of day any time soon.

Anti-ship missiles accelerate to hypersonic speed, allowing them to hit naval groups. As described below, this is because of a scramjet motor that gives such missiles their power:

Anti Ship Missiles are believed to be a maneuvering, winged hypersonic cruise missile with a lift-generating center body. A booster stage with solid-fuel engines accelerates it to supersonic speeds, after which a scramjet motor in the second stage accelerates it to hypersonic speeds.

Anti Ship Hypersonic Missiles:

United States (Currently only possesses sub-sonic missiles)

Russia (operational)

China (testing phase)

In the next article I will explain how Russia and China Gained a Strategic Advantage in Hypersonic Technology and why this could be a game changer in future war scenarios.


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Hypersonic Weapons can Travel 5 Times the Speed of Sound


5 times can all the air-to-air-missiles. Hypersonic is by the guys : “MORE THAN 5 times”
They were talking about “tuned-up” ICBMs….. by 15-20 MACH (!?!)

or Russian US and China hypersonic cruise missiles that can “make slalom” between the interception-systems of the enemy.

The Russians are leading in the development, although the Americans have a Boeing-hypersonic missile since 2010.
The Chinese tested their last year and this year it goes in ” normal production”.
The RUSSKI are 2-3 steps forward and have the most reliable and precise guided hypersonic missile, with the highest SPEED & maneuverability


At least 5 times the speed of sound and maximum 24.

Dr. Pro Liv

No they can fly even much faster
5 Times the Speed of Sound is minimum speed so that speed can be called “Hypersonic”

For example Russian anti-ship missile “Dagger” flies 10 times the Speed of Sound.


Assymetric. IL with gliding missiles destroy russian hypersuperlaunchers. This is assymetric.

Btw., what begins the primitive russian technology with hypersonic weapons of enemy? Because those make everything symmetric. :P


Russian technology is anything but primitive. As witnessed by the fact that it has no problems with keeping up with American technology. It’s great strength is often its simplicity. Americans are gadget crazy. Just dangle the allure of some new gadget in front of them and they go apeshit. In military technology this translates into designs which are way too complicated and over priced. They then pride themselves that they have hardware in the world. And then each time get confronted with the Russians coming up with something that is just as good and at only a fraction of the budget. Granted, it will usually be no frills, and lacking the comfort for its operators that American designs will have. But it will get the job done and since its cheaper it would allow a potential user to buy a hell of a lot more of it then they would buying American. And as Stalin said, quantity is a quality of its own right.


Let the proud redneck-hero to talk his McCarthy fairy-tail.
The guy still lives in the “Boris Yeltsin-times”
And EVEN THEN, the Russian had n ejection-system in their SU-27 that could be used in ANY position the plane was, PROVEN LIVE in an AIR-SHOW in Paris.

The Americans bought that thing for a bottle Vodka from that drunk pYg in Moscow, because the ejection by F-14, 15, 16 18 could work only by 30° left or right from the VERTICAL SITTING of the pilot( aka the HORIZONTAL positioning of the plane)

Now the SU-30 till 35 have ejecting-systems that do their job by (!!!!) 1,5 Mach , protecting head and limbs from being ripped-off by the wind-shock.

The guy still believes the Russians are by the “SADDAM Hussein’s weapons-level”
Even THE IRANIANS have already better counter-measures against supersonic American drones than ISRAEL – the “mama-of-the-drones-projects” in the Western World.

I’m sick and tired of these infatuated Yanks & Rednecks.
An old Soviet S-200 of the Syrian Army hit the Israeli F-35 and took down an F-16 :))


You think like herman Goerin: ” Ah, these Americans can do only rasor-blades”:
The country that makes good rasor-blades has the BEST STELL for weapons ;)..

Russia has a 25-30 years of adrvantage to the Americans in matter high-technology-weapons.
OK, WTF has this with “asymetric” I really don’t know.
But the RUSSKI have REALLY an almost stealth fighter, ( while the F-22 and F-35 appear on the S-400 “PASSIVE” RADARS like a light-tower ( you have no idea that they switched-on you and already shot the missile) and on the SU-35 SPECIAL -also “passive” radars.

The local-EMP-system crippled the jonathan Cook in the Black-Sea, all the electronic was DEAD..

Imagine what happens with the B-2 and guided Cruise-missiles, when the Russki send a WAVE into the “swarm” of US-planes. B-2 falls down because without the 250 computers (!!!!!) on board, it cannot stay in the air.
Russian subs equiped with GERMAN STEALTH-technology ( already stolen by the Russkis and Chinese) and alternative atimic & energy-cells NOISLESS, the propel alternative to ” silent jet-stream”-engines that push water thru them and don’t make any noise :))
Supersonic uderwater-MISSILES that act like torpedoes but cannot be BS-ed by anti-torpedo-measures, ..
“SONAR” like on the S-400 ” totally “passive” can find out 8,000 km away what kind of engine is there and who it belongs without sending anything to make the whales crazy and to put in alarm the other subs and Navy-vessels with their “PINGS”..

Anti-satellite-missiles that get down even the GPS-satellites ( the highest placed satellites)

And America f*ck its money on LOBBY-weapons and .. CARRIERS ( an excellent target for missiles and a blow in the PROPAGANDA, if such thing goes diving..


Russia most certainly has “primitive” weapons. Rockets have been around since the 13th century, Russia is just improving on existing proven technology. The airplane has only been around since the 20th century. Todays stealth aircraft are technological wonders, incredibly complex systems.

Now think of the task you are asking of your weapons ….. say striking a command bunker 1000 miles behind enemy lines. The USA uses stealth aircraft with a kill chain that starts with the maintanience crew at the air base, includes air refuelling tankers, AWAC’s fighter escorts. Every link in that chain has be coordinated to the second for the whole thing to work and there are hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in every link of the chain.

The Russian’s “primitave’ solution to the same problem is to fire a missile ….. or half a dozen ….. at the target. Kill chain? You just give the order and a guy presses a button and scoots to the next location so he can’t be found.

So yes the Russians are more ‘primitive’ in their military doctrine but complexity is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to warfare. We live in an entropic world, the more complex a system the greater the chance of it failing. The Russians seem to understand this and make dependable weapons that are easy to maintain and operate. The Russians don’t lose an aircraft worth half a billion dollars and an air crew that took years and millions of dollars to train if one of their missile batteries get taken out ….. they lose a truck and a guy who pushes a button.


You really overloaded his primitive brain with your comment.


Dubai Airshow 2017 (Day 3) JF-17 PAF Flying display.
المقاتلة الباكستانية JF-17 Thunder
الصواريخ الباكستانية النووية |Pakistani nuclear missiles

Click on YouTube icon for better view.
The actual ranges of Raad missile is 550 km, Ababeel 4,400 km and Shaheen-3 missile is 5,500 km.
Pakistan produces fighter jets JF-17 Block1 / Block2, Cruise, Ballistic Missiles & nuclear weapons, tanks and some 1000 other military hardware.

The JF-17 Block-3 is 16m long with a new Russian upgraded jet engine AL-31FN Series-3 which has also used in China J10 fighter jet. At least 100 JF-17 Block-3 per year will be produced in Pakistan to export. With Pakistan a 3 stage ICBM missiles Taimor with 11,000 Km and Tapo 15,000 Km ranges are underdeveloped. The Tapo ICBM is with 15000 Km operational range, 25m in length and a 2.2m in diameter. Pakistan now encapsulating their all missiles for greater ranges. Pakistan also developing a heavy 22m long fighter jet like Mig-31 for longer ranges and JF-17 UAVs which Pakistani pilots will control from the ground stations.

Mateen Zaman

Love you brother


comment image?w=625&h=469
Pakistan made nuclear Ra’ad-I Air Launched Cruise Missile with JF-17 Thunder.
Pakistan made Ra’ad-I is with 350KM and Ra’ad-II is with 550KM range.
Each nuclear Ra’ad ALCM is with 200kT yield.

Pakistan made H-4 BVR missile with JF-17 Thunder


US sanctions every country in the world but no country have sanction the US and Netanyahu as*ses. I think their as*ses have immunity to sanction.

Dr. Pro Liv

No benefit but no alternative either…at least Russia and China can sometime veto some aggressive attempts from the West …


Its looks like that there is need for a new unbiased international organization where all nations should be equal without veto power. Then no country will attack or steal land from a defenseless nation. First US made International league but failed then UN but this one also useless because both are in US but this time a new one needed outside America and Europe. I mean in Asia my opinion is Russia and China are the best option for a new unbiased vetoless International organization.

Dr. Pro Liv

“there is need for a new unbiased international organization”
There was always need for a new unbiased international organization but there is NO real possibility to create one!

” all nations should be equal without veto power”
That will NEVER happen!
Your talk as naive person now…..
There was “Nonaligned movement” a movement-organisation without importance. Which have had decided nothing important.
Those without power have no importance and decide nothing.
Colonial countries like US,UK,France and their stooges would resist any attempt of reducing even little bit their influence.
Even now when their powers are dwindling.
Let alone to share power with “Third World” countries
Even Russia and China must win their battle for the multipolar world first before some serious changes start…

Terra Cotta Woolpuller

Think he is trying to get at is the elimination of immunity by the top 5 from prosecution as that would change the dynamic of he game and have a 45 country UNSC to spread the authority and better delegation.

Dr. Pro Liv

OK I get it.
But I still don’t see that possible any way you turn it around.
It is not realistic at all…
It will NEVER pass!

Even if it would pass (just rhetorically speaking) US would leave UN immediately !
Followed by UK and soon enough by the rest of US stooges….
And whole “new UN” would collapse.
Countries like US, UK, France would never accept to be judged by 3rd world nations in any shape or form.
They would never even accept others to limit them to exercise their neocolonialist habits like bombing Libya, Syria etc…

Only true military power could put those countries in their place
( by force only ).
Nothing else!
Specially not new UN “chart” or some other silly thing like that…

chris chuba

When I read U.S. military oriented articles, I am surprised at the rather myopic view of these weapons. It isn’t a matter of who has the better weapons, it is a matter of how these weapons impact the other sides ability to operate.

Let’s assume that the U.S. has better technology (not saying it does, just saying for the sake of argument), Russia, or a hypersonically missile armed Iran, is able to obliterate the U.S.’s surface fleet. Who cares if the U.S. has better stealth fighters? Hypersonic missiles will always out range carrier based aircraft. I don’t know about the guidance systems for hypersonic missiles, I have just assumed that no one would build a missile with a range without a guidance system because that would be pointless.


Lot’s of wrong information

Marvin Joel Zavala López

And the old Mig-31 Foxhound still running the party again.



One one side you have Russia that has delveloped several hypersonic platforms, Zircon anti ship missile, Khinzhal air to ground missile, Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle.
On the other side, US relies on carriers deploying planes with ranges of about 600 miles, the only source of accurate attack, their standoff missiles being rather ineffective.
The asymmetry of hypersonic weapon technology, pitts carriers with aircraft with limited range, against russian hypersonic missiles and glide vehicles that exceed the reach of the carrier.

US attempts to develop hypersonic technology is stagnated because of a poor engineering skills prevalent within the MIC, human skill and creativity has been replaced by computer softaware that has limitations. By the time US will have a viable weapon, Russia will be deploying second or third generation of hypersonic weapons.

chris chuba

LOL good point, anything that is not U.S. made is ‘asymmetric’ as if it is guerrilla warfare.
What is not asymmetric warfare, tank on tank battles, another Battle of Midway?


Asymmetric means that one responds, not by trying to equal and surpass the other’s power strategy, but by developing another technology that makes theirs obsolete. Russia does not have to compete with aircraft carriers to match air craft carriers (symetrical) if these hypersonic weapons make aircraft carriers obsolete (that is asymetrical meaning not competing in the the exact same playing field with the exact same weapons).

Real Anti-Racist Action

What must be done to get more of this tech into the hands of the Christian and Shia and Sunni and Jewish Iranians?
Monotheist Must Unite, and provide this tech know-how to the true defenders of Monotheist.

Harold Smith

The U.S. government can make these Russian and Chinese weapons completely irrelevant anytime it wants to; all it has to do is give up on the agenda of world domination and control and start living by the rule of law.

Real Anti-Racist Action

Traditional Americans have wanted this all along.
Jewish immigrants flooding into the US in the early 1900’s immediately went about trying to create a world war to advance their interest. And the US 100% in the wrong was swayed through public manipulation to go to war with tiny Germany. The story back then was a piece of land much smaller then Texas was going to conquer the world. Anyone who believes that is no capable of objective thought.
This whole thing started when the world let the US get away with murder against the indigenous Central European tribes. Once the world let them get away with those crimes, they learned they can always get away with it.
The world should have bombed and leveled American cities for invading Europe. But instead no one said a thing leaving this horrific crime to go unanswered.

Top secret clearence

Typed Wang Zhenguo and VLRAAM into your computer to find more information on China s 6th generation airplanes (J-28,J-50,H-8,H-10,H-20) and 6th generation drones (Cloud Shadow,Dark Shadow,Star Shadow) the turbo-scram jet engine allows the 6th generation airplanes and drones to fly at mach 6 speed..The PL-21 VLRAAM that flew at mach 6 speed is based on the turbo-scram jet engine.

Top secret clearence

Typed Wang Zhenguo and VLRAAM into your computer to find more information on China s 6th generation airplanes.The PL-21 VLRAAM that flew at mach 6 speed was reported by National Interest and Popular Mechanics is based on the turbo-scram jet engine

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