CBO: US Military Needs to Overcome Technical Challenges to Deploy Hypersonic Weapons

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The Congressional Budget Office examined and compared the hypersonic weapons being developed by the Army, Air Force and the Navy with potential existing alternatives and found that the U.S. military must overcome technological challenges to deploy hypersonic missiles, including the need for these weapons to withstand extreme temperatures.

“Shielding hypersonic missiles’ sensitive electronics, understanding how various materials perform, and predicting aerodynamics at sustained temperatures as high as 3,000° Fahrenheit require extensive flight testing,” CBO wrote in a report published Tuesday.

According to CBO, ballistic and hypersonic missiles could operate beyond the anti-access and area-denial zones being developed by potential adversaries such as Russia and China.

The report noted that ballistic missiles with maneuverable warheads would be more survivable than hypersonic missiles against midcourse air defenses but could be vulnerable to highly effective long-range defenses.

Procuring 300 ballistic missiles and sustaining them for two decades would cost $13.4 billion in 2023 dollars, the office estimated, while a comparable number of hypersonic weapons would cost a total of $17.9 billion.

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