An Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) carried by a B-52 bomber
Hypersonic missile
Scramjet-powered hypersonic cruise missile

A hypersonic weapon is a weapon capable of travelling at hypersonic speed, defined as between 5 and 25 times the speed of sound or about 1 to 5 miles per second (1.6 to 8.0 km/s).[1]

Below such speeds, weapons would be characterized as subsonic or supersonic, while above such speeds, the molecules of the atmosphere disassociate into a plasma which makes control and communication difficult. Directed-energy weapons such as lasers may operate at higher speeds but are considered a different class of weaponry.

There are multiple types of hypersonic weapon:

  1. Hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV): missile warheads which maneuver and glide through the atmosphere at high speeds after an initial ballistic launch phase[2][1]
  2. Hypersonic cruise missile: cruise missiles which use air-breathing engines such as scramjets to reach high speeds[2][1]
  3. Hypersonic aircraft using air-breathing engines such as scramjets to reach high speeds[1]
  4. Guns which fire cannon-launched guided projectiles. These may be developments of traditional artillery or novel technologies such as railguns.[1]
  5. Ballistic missiles traveling at high speeds during its atmospheric reentry
  6. Hypersonic air-to-air missile: an AAM which use air-breathing engines such as scramjet to intercept air targets (such as Vympel R-37)


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (March 2023)

The Silbervogel was the first design for a hypersonic weapon and was developed by German scientists in the 1930s.[3]

In the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia was seen to have fielded operational weapons and used them for combat. The Kremlin presents new hypersonic weapons as supposedly capable of overcoming "any" foreign missile defense systems, with the "pre-nuclear deterrence" concept contained in its 2014 iteration of the official Russian Military Doctrine.[4] A volley of Russian hypersonic missiles were launched at Kyiv in January 2023.[5]

By country

See also Hypersonic flight#Hypersonic weapons, National Defense Space Architecture

Plans, programs and projects for such weaponry include:








North Korea


South Korea

United Kingdom

United States

Hypersonic missile defense

See also: Missile defense

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February 2023)

European Union


On June 14, 2023 Rafael Advanced Defense Systems announced the SkySonic hypersonic missile interceptor missile, it is assumed that the missile could take out threats between 20 and 70 km altitude, the missile will be officially displayed in the Paris Air show 2023.

United States

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e John T. Watts; Christian Trotti; Mark J. Massa (August 2020), Primer on Hypersonic Weapons in the Indo-Pacific Region (PDF), Atlantic Council, ISBN 978-1-61977-111-6
  2. ^ a b "'National pride is at stake.' Russia, China, United States race to build hypersonic weapons". Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  3. ^ David Wright; Cameron Tracy (1 August 2021), "Overhyped: The Physics and Hype of Hypersonic Weapons", Scientific American, 325 (2): 64–71
  4. ^ McDermott, Roger (4 February 2022). "The Role of Hypersonic Weapons in Russian Military Strategy". The Jamestown Foundation.
  5. ^ "Ukraine war: Kyiv says it shot down Russian hypersonic missiles". 16 May 2023. Retrieved 2 January 2024.
  6. ^ Paleja, Ameya (19 January 2024). "China's secretive lab simulates hypersonic missile attack on US warship". Retrieved 11 February 2024.
  7. ^ a b "China lab simulates attack on US warships using space weapons, hypersonic missiles". South China Morning Post. 19 January 2024. Retrieved 11 February 2024.
  8. ^ "MBDA en dit un peu plus sur l'ASN4G, le futur missile de la composante aéroportée de la dissuasion française". 12 March 2023.
  9. ^ "Le futur missile de la composante aéroportée de la dissuasion française : l'ASN4G". 13 March 2023.
  10. ^ "France debuts hypersonic glide weapon in first VMaX test flight". 28 June 2023.
  11. ^ "France Conducts First VMaX Hypersonic Glide Vehicle Test". 27 June 2023.
  12. ^ "France conducts first test firing of V-MAX hypersonic glider demonstrator". 27 June 2023.
  13. ^ "La France a testé le planeur hypersonique VMAX d'Ariane Group". 27 June 2023.
  14. ^ "Armées : la France a testé pour la première fois un planeur hypervéloce, capable de voler à plus de Mach 5". 27 June 2023.
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^ "Institute of Structures and Design".
  18. ^ "HALO programme accelerates US Navy hypersonic capability drive". 5 September 2022.
  19. ^
  20. ^ "MBDA debuts European hypersonic interceptor concept Aquila". 20 June 2023.
  21. ^ "Aquila: MBDA to lead consortium for European interceptor against hypersonic threats". 20 June 2023.
  22. ^ "Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO)'s projects - Overview" (PDF). 12 November 2019.
  23. ^ a b "Spanish, German companies start work on hypersonic missile interceptor". 5 September 2022.
  24. ^ "Timely Warning and Interception With Space-Based Theater Surveillance (TWISTER)". 12 November 2019.
  25. ^ Kim, Victoria; Schmitt, Eric; Ismay, John (16 May 2023). "U.S. Officials Confirm Damage to Patriot Defense System in Kyiv Attack". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 6 June 2023.
  26. ^ "Counter Hypersonics". Northrop Grumman. Retrieved 6 June 2023.
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ "General Says Countering Hypersonic Weapons Is Imperative". U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved 6 June 2023.

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from Kelley M. Sayler. Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF). Congressional Research Service.