I recently had the misfortune to read an article on CNN entitled: What to know about hypersonic missiles fired by Russia at Ukraine
I say “misfortune” because clearly, the individual who wrote it was trying very hard to downplay the significance of hypersonic weapons in the hands of the USA’s declared adversary – aka Russia.
The above-mentioned article is actually an extended version of a shorter one at CNN published just a day earlier. That earlier article (now missing) was even worse – for both its purely propagandistic nature, as well as the author’s breathtaking display of simple ignorance regarding the subject matter of his article.
But, whatever. So let’s take a look at hypersonic missiles…
The “Don’t worry, it’s just…” argument
There’s a lot of this in mainstream news about Russia and China and their now advanced weaponry.
Can’t have the natives realizing that not only is the West running out of arms, but they’ve also fallen behind technologically when it comes to weapons.
So, we read:
In March, US President Joe Biden confirmed Russia’s use of the Kinzhal missile, describing it as “a consequential weapon … it’s almost impossible to stop it. There’s a reason they’re using it.”
Oh, okay. That sounds pretty honest. But wait:
Biden’s defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, has downplayed the effectiveness of the missile, telling CBS in March that he “would not see it as a game-changer.”
Oh. So, nothing to worry about then? Why not?
First, it’s important to understand the term.
Essentially, all ballistic missiles are hypersonic – which means they travel at least five times the speed of sound. Almost any warhead released from a rocket miles in the atmosphere will reach this speed heading to its target. It is not a new technology.
What military powers – including Russia, China, the United States and North Korea – are working on now is a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV). An HGV is a highly maneuverable payload that can theoretically fly at hypersonic speed while adjusting course and altitude to fly under radar detection and around missile defenses.
Where to start…
First, note the correction at the bottom of the article:
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that virtually all ballistic missiles — not missiles in general — are hypersonic.
Wow, that’s just… That’s not even a mistake: that’s an epic oversight that reveals an astounding lack of understanding about the most basic ideas in the article.
Yes, ballistic missiles – which mostly travel in a parabolic trajectory – generally have a hypersonic re-entry phase. You would too if you launched into near-space, and then arced back downwards and plummeted with ever-increasing velocity towards the surface of the earth.
That’s simply Old School Missiles 101.
But we’re not just talking about “ballistic missiles”, which most people associate with very large flaming tubes that sail across the world and deliver multiple giant nukes. In the case of Russia, they have a hypersonic variant of just about every missile type – including what might be normally termed “cruise missiles”.
Cruise missiles are generally not even SUPERsonic (Mach 1+), much less HYPERsonic (Mach 5+). Tomahawks are a joke compared to the new toys of the “bad guys”.
Second, about HGVs: This is what Chinese HGVs look like:
Oh, that’s pretty. And this is what the Russian Kh-47M2 Kinzhal looks like:
Have you seen photos of US equivalents recently?
No? How about from the French? Germans?
No again? Hmm…
Did you hear that even India should have a functional hypersonic missile by 2024? It’s called the BrahMos II. The current BrahMos is in service, and goes about Mach 3. The new version should be Mach 6+. India is apparently developing it jointly with Russia.
Do I even need to mention North Korea?
And again: When’s the last time you read about, or better yet saw a photo, or better yet read a news story about an operational hypersonic missile from the likes of the USA?
Russia’s Kinzhal has been around since 2017!!!
So why does this matter?
Well, first, the USA – aka the world’s lone remaining superpower – can’t be very much of a superpower if other countries have stocked up or are stocking up on cutting-edge weapons that even the USA itself won’t have for another 5 years at least.
Second, do you have any idea what difference velocity makes on a projectile? Let’s find out from our dear friend, The Wikipedia:
The high speed of the Kinzhal gives it better target penetration than lighter, slower cruise missiles. With advanced maneuvering capabilities, high precision and hypersonic speed, some sources give it the name “carrier killer” due to its alleged ability to disable and possibly even sink a 100,000 ton supercarrier with a single strike. If it strikes with a mass of 2,000 kg (4,400 lb), including 500 kg warhead, and at a speed of Mach 12, the Kinzhal has more than 16.9 gigajoules of kinetic energy excluding detonation, the equivalent of 4,000 kg of TNT.
Did I mention that Kinzhal can carry an estimated 100-500 kiloton nuclear warhead, too?
Mind you, this is Wikipedia saying this. So it’s most likely worse than that (or better than that, if you’re Russian).
Which means if you’re ‘Murika, you are presently crapping your pants.
So, when you read that it’s “unknown” if the Patriot missile system can shoot down the likes of Kinzhal, allow me to enlighten you: no, it can’t.
Let’s put on our thinking caps…
Now, just for fun, imagine a scenario where the USA does something stupid. Russia, for whatever reason, fires a SINGLE Kinzhal at a US super carrier. And sinks it. And the video footage is seen by everyone around the world.
What do you think happens to the USA’s standing in the world?
Why do you think the US and its European vassals have resorted to ridiculous economic sanctions that are backfiring quite magnificently?
The answer is simple: Because with hypersonic weapons (among other new toys), it’s Game Over for American military dominance. Donezerooni. Finito. THE END.
The mere threat of their use makes hypersonic weapons something that could change the very global order – without a single one ever being fired at, say, an aircraft carrier.
The image of American military supremacy – now definitely an illusion – must be maintained at all costs.
Everyone knows nukes are useless except for deterrence and MAD: mutually assured destruction. Conventional warheads delivered at 12 times the speed of sound, now that’s a different story…
The definitive (not to mention traditional) answer to woke.
1941 all ,over again but without the folks who brought us the Midway miracle.
This will not end well but maybe it shouldn’t; anymore than it worked for Rome, eh?
Great article Scottie. Lots of good info.
QUESTION: If one of these supersonics fly through a metal dust spiked cloud, would there be any possibility it could overheat (like meteors in our atmosphere) and maybe even go “POOF” prematurely?
Not sure, really. I think the “metal-spiked cloud” thing would be worse for air-breathing missiles. Many hypersonic missiles are not – AFAIK. I guess we’ll probably find out soon enough.
okolo Kindzalu je plazma prach ju nezastaví.