CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to meet with the nation’s top defense companies this week in an effort to speed up the development of hypersonic weapons.
The meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, comes after the hypersonic weapons tests from China and Russia took U.S. national security officials by surprise in recent months.
The Pentagon’s push for more urgency into its hypersonic weapons program and increasing its resources also comes after the U.S. military suffered two missile test failures last year. Despite that, retired Marine intelligence officer Hal Kempfer says he’s pretty confident the U.S. can catch up to Russia and China’s hypersonic technology.
“We have the capability,” Kempfer said Monday on NewsNation’s “The Donlon Report.” “I feel that if we put enough effort and certainly enough funding towards it, we can catch up pretty fast.”
Kempfer said since the United States is not as far as advanced in hypersonic programs, the threat to the U.S. missile defense systems is imminent.
“They could literally skirt around at extremely high speed … our missile defenses and then pop into our country or to whatever target they hit. And we simply just don’t have what we need to intercept them.”
The missiles can travel at speeds in excess of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. Their maneuverability also makes them more difficult to detect. Kempfer said this is why building vast technology in terms of targeting and avionics is important.
“The other thing we have to consider is targeting. And that’s so difficult with nuclear weapons. When you talk about ballistic missiles, it’s not just a range of the missile. It’s the ability of the warhead to come through the atmosphere and actually hit the target. It’s very common … for the missile itself to get there. And then if it’s not a very advanced system, the warhead can literally skip on the atmosphere and misses the target by quite a bit of distance, hundreds of miles sometimes.”
As to how long it will take for the U.S. to develop and deploy these weapons systems, Kempfer said he believes the timeline will be pushed aggressively.
“He’s (Austin) is going to give them a very short timeline … and they’re going to dedicate a lot of funding to it. He’s going to put some very clear timelines and deliverables on when they have to achieve — certain aspects of what we want.” The emphasis will be on speed and in-flight maneuverability, he added.
The U.S. has so far focused more on the development of conventional warheads. Russia and China have focused on hypersonic weapons with the capabilities of carrying nuclear warheads.
North Korea has also said it will bolster its defenses against the United States. The country carried out yet another missile test Sunday, making it one of the busiest months for missile tests in the country’s history.
“We should be concerned,” Kempfer said. “I think the real place to be concerned is the West Pacific. I know in Guam … there’s been a lot of discussion about significantly increasing our anti-missile defense system within Guam and some of our other West Pacific bases and installations.”
The top defense companies that have been invited to attend the meeting include Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.