Thursday, February 25

Hypersonic missiles are the Pentagon’s next big bet

J.P. Morgan took a closer look Wednesday at hypersonics, a new missile technology, and named nearly all the defense contractors as key players in the sector, with Lockheed Martin out to an early lead.

“While sales are still modest, we see substantial growth potential by the mid-2020s to [greater than $5 billion], perhaps significantly more,” J.P. Morgan analyst Seth Seifman said in a note. Seifman cited Michael Griffin, under secretary of Defense for researching and engineering, saying Griffin “believes that hypersonics development is currently the highest technical priority for the Pentagon.”

A hypersonic weapon is a missile that travels at Mach 5 or higher. That’s at least five times the speed of sound, or about 1 mile per second.

“Today’s cruise missiles generally reach speeds near but not greater than Mach 1, while ballistic missiles accelerate to supersonic speeds but fly on predictable paths,” Seifman said. “Hypersonic weapons, however, are maneuverable and cruise at lower altitudes, making them more difficult to counter.”

Russia and China have already been “aggressively pursuing” hypersonics, Air Force Gen. John Hyten told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 20.

“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” Hyten said at the time.

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