HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- "Speed kills"is a phrase commonly used when talking about safe driving. These days it's connected with the next wave of weapons that has defense planners in the United States concerned. Hypersonic weapons will travel at least five times the speed of sound, referred to as Mach 5. That's far faster than a speeding bullet, and be the kind of speed to cover the distance between Decatur and Huntsville in 26 seconds or less.
Russia's Vladimir Putin was bragging about his country's hypersonic missiles earlier this year, calling them invincible. What Putin doesn't talk about is the fact that hypersonic systems are still several years away. Right now it's all about research, and that is a very good thing. Steven Messervy is the Director of the Research Institute at UAH, and has done research on hypersonics. I asked him if we would be in trouble if America's enemies had hypersonics now? "We would be in trouble, right," said Messervy.
The good news says Messervy is the fact that multiple commands, agencies, and companies in Huntsville are heavily involved in research into hypersonic systems, both offensive and defensive. The problem is that past budgets have not contained enough money for hypersonic research, though Messervy says that will change in the next few years. He also says that Mike Griffin, the new Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering has told Congress that hypersonics are his priority.
"We are behind Russia and China in our technology development. I guess I agree with some of our senior leaders when they say we're behind, but we haven't lost the fight yet," said Messervy.
In Messervy's mind catching up isn't really the goal. The goal is the pass our adversaries, and work on that is going on in north Alabama right now. The thing to remember, our adversaries are also working.