The Defense Department asked Congress on July 11 to redirect $248 million in unspent funds to hypersonic weapons-related activities in an effort to keep pace with China and Russia. The speed, flight altitude, and maneuverability of such weapons result in less warning time than in the case of higher-flying ballistic missiles and make them much more difficult to target with missile defenses. (See ACT, January/February 2018.)
The Pentagon requested $160 million for the Conventional Prompt Strike program, an effort to develop a hypersonic glide vehicle that could be deployed on long-range missiles to strike targets anywhere on Earth in as little as an hour. The Pentagon request also includes $49 million for two prototyping projects, the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon and the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon; $20 million for the hypersonic Tactical Boost Glide, an air-launched tactical-range system; and $19.4 million for further developing defense capabilities against hypersonic weapons.
Spending on offensive and defensive hypersonic weapons has increased in recent years, with $380 million appropriated for that purpose in fiscal year 2018. The administration has requested $913 million for fiscal year 2019, but the House and Senate appropriations committees have indicated they will increase that amount.—MONICA MONTGOMERY