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Australia to Develop Hypersonic Missile Capability

FILE - This handout video grab released by the Russian Defense Ministry on Feb. 19, 2022, shows an airman examining MiG-31K fighter of the Russian air force carrying a Kinzhal hypersonic cruise missile at an undisclosed location in Russia.

Under an updated timetable, Australian fighter jets would be armed with advanced U.S.-manufactured air-to-surface missiles by 2024, three years earlier than planned. Its navy frigates and destroyers would be equipped with Norwegian-made missiles by 2024, five years ahead of schedule.

Australia also has plans to build its own next-generation missiles, including hypersonics, under new defense projects.

Both China and Russia have tested advanced versions of hypersonic missiles that can hit distant targets at such high speeds that they cannot easily be intercepted by current military systems.

The missiles can carry nuclear weapons.

Hypersonic weapons explainer
Hypersonic weapons explainer

Some believe the United States needs to catch up in developing the technology. Republican Representative Mike Turner of Ohio told the Armed Services Committee that the U.S. is “behind our adversaries,” referring to Russia and China, Bloomberg reported. The report added that “adversaries don’t have to meet the rigorous standards set under the U.S. defense acquisition system or face public scrutiny over delays and failure.” The Pentagon conducted its own successful tests last month, according to reports.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday the missiles were a key part of the AUKUS security alliance.

“Hypersonics and the various technologies that surround hypersonics are a very much a part of what the AUKUS partnership is striving to deliver not just in Australia, but in the United States and the United Kingdom as well,” he said.

Hypersonic missiles are a game-changer, said Marcus Hellyer, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a research organization.

“The band for hypersonic weapons is, sort of, between five and 25 times the speed of sound, and that is pretty fast, and so what that means is that existing defensive systems that seek to defeat incoming missiles and protect ships or cities are pretty ineffective,” he said. “So, whoever has a good hypersonic missile has a capability jump over everybody else.”

Australia, Britain and the United States are already collaborating on advanced military technologies, including artificial intelligence, quantum technology and undersea robotics.