Britain will work with the US and Australia on the development of hypersonic weapons.

In a joint statement, AUKUS leaders Johnson, US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said:

“Today, the leaders of the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) partnership – Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, and President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. of the United States – assessed progress under AUKUS.

We reaffirmed our commitment to AUKUS and to a free and open Indo-Pacific. In light of Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified, and unlawful invasion of Ukraine, we reiterated our unwavering commitment to an international system that respects human rights, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes free from coercion.

We are pleased with the progress in our trilateral programme for Australia to establish a conventionally armed, nuclear‑powered submarine capability. We are fully committed to establishing a robust approach to sharing naval propulsion technology with Australia that strengthens the global non-proliferation regime.

We also committed today to commence new trilateral cooperation on hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, and electronic warfare capabilities, as well as to expand information sharing and to deepen cooperation on defence innovation. These initiatives will add to our existing efforts to deepen cooperation on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities. As our work progresses on these and other critical defence and security capabilities, we will seek opportunities to engage allies and close partners.”

Royal Navy aiming to become a global leader in hypersonic weapons

The First Sea Lord said recently that the Royal Navy is aiming to become “a global leader in hypersonic weapons”.

The following is an excerpt from a speech given by First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key in Rosyth, February 10th 2020.

“At the steel cutting for HMS Venturer back in September, on this site, the Defence Secretary said it was not so much a milestone in the life of a single ship, as a glimpse of the future of our Fleet. It’s a future where we are setting ourselves a challenge to become a global leader in hypersonic weapons. A future where we’ll become more adaptive in how we use our platforms, high end war fighting, command and control, floating embassies for the United Nations. Highly lethal, highly reassuring and highly adaptable.

It’s where we will blend crewed and uncrewed systems, operating both F35 and drones from the same flight deck. A future where the Royal Marine Commandos will operate from our Multi role support ships, and ashore in small groups delivering training and support to teams afloat in the Littoral Response Groups and also delivering in a different way special support to maritime operations. And it’s a future where we will regain and retain operational advantage in the underwater domain.

So I have a call to arms for you in industry. I want you to feel as invested in this as we are, not because of your share price. Not because of the wonderful manufacturing facilities that allows you to create, but because you recognise you are integral to the success of a Global, Modern, and Ready Royal Navy.”

For more on Royal Navy plans to acquire new missiles, I recommend you check out the following article from defence analyst ‘NavyLookout, a great source of in-depth information.

Counter-hypersonic capability key feature of Type 83 Destroyer

Additionally, it was recently revealed that a key capability of the Type 83 Destroyer, the ship replacing the Type 45 Destroyer, will be the development of a counter-hypersonic capability.

On the 14th of December 2021 the Defence Committee published a report titled ‘We’re going to need a bigger Navy’. The Government’s response has been published below.

The Defence Committee concluded in their report:

“The Defence Over the next decade the UK and the Navy will face an increasingly
complex international security environment. Russia and China will remain the
primary adversaries at sea, with the relative importance of the UK’s response to each
likely to shift and potentially interact through the decade.

Developments in technology, particularly in hypersonic weapons, are changing the conduct of naval warfare and grey zone operations are becoming increasingly important for the UK’s security in the maritime domain, as they are in others.”

The Government responded:

“The Committee’s report aligns with the Government’s assessment of the
complex security environment. In the maritime environment, this is being driven
by the confluence of assertive state actors, who are increasingly operating in the ‘grey
zone’, and the proliferation of lethal technology.

The Integrated Review (IR) recognised this challenge and has invested in the Royal Navy (RN) accordingly. This included ‘subthreshold’ capabilities, such as enhancing the Royal Marines as a Special Operations capable Commando Force. The Defence Command Paper committed to a concept and assessment phase for the Future Air Defence system to replace the Type 45 Destroyer, a key element of which will be the development of a counter-hypersonic capability.”

You can read their response in full by clicking here.

George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also works for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Quentin D63
Quentin D63
14 days ago

Okay, I’ll be first! Where does this leave the current status of the FC/ASW? I can’t imagine the French liking this at all? Is the UK going move away FC/ASW or will the Anglo-French MBDA partnership let in the US and Australia?

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
14 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

And, in light of the Ukrainian invasion and other potential areas of tension will there be a change in sourcing “interim” ASh/LAMs for the T23/T45/T26s with both the FC/ASW and especially the T83 being some way off?
I

DP
DP
14 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Hi Quentin D63, I’m no industry or defence expert, I just have a curious interest in all things defence. My own personal view is, reading between the lines, FC/ASW development should be unaffected but I accept anything with an AUKUS tag around the French will cause aggro. There is a place for a range of anti-ship/land attack systems. Some will be more cost effective than others at killing a small patrol boat on the horizon while other targets might need a bigger warhead, speed and range. My view is, any hypersonic solution is someway off and needs a collaborative approach… Read more »

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
13 days ago
Reply to  DP

Sound take I think. I would say that in reality only the US for the foreseeable future will on the allied side be able to push true development of hypersonics this is an area they have been developing (even if they took the foot off the pedal) for over 20 years. So clearly this is an opportunity for UK and OZ ( possibly others eventually) to plug into research that would take years and probably unsustainably high costs to replicate. It will almost certainly be level(s) above and beyond FC/ASW but would be potentially available before any hypersonic version of… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
13 days ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

It could well be that the UK/US know perfectly well how to make a hypersonic missile.

But are, possibly, waiting for some materials, or other, R&D to make an effective hypersonic missile?

After all a lot of the tech isn’t that different to reentry shields for space crew capsules?

Ian
Ian
13 days ago

Re-entry vehicles on a ballistic trajectory are hypersonic, but I think the intent here is around hypersonic cruise missiles. Making a hypersonic projectile using rocket propulsion probably wouldn’t be that hard, but an air-breathing engine is more challenging, and there’s still the issue of being able to aim and steer it properly.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
13 days ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

If I may be flippant for a wee moment…if France joins AUKUS we’d get FRAUKUS!…(fracas)…lol…could well be appropriate!

Matt
Matt
8 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Alternatively we get AUFUKS…

Cravendale
Cravendale
14 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

I too am curious about where this will sit in the arsenal and how it will complement FC/ASW and Tomahawk.

Also if it will be air, sea or land launched.

Martin
Martin
13 days ago
Reply to  Cravendale

It’s a good point, as it does not clearly have a slot to fit in in will likely never exist for us atleast. It’s more likely to be a technology assessment for us for a range of future weapons that may eventually replace Trident E6 or ATACMS/long range precision strike.good thing is it lets us look like we are in the game with out pissing billions up the wall on something that will probably be useless in modern warfare. To expensive to use basically. We have had the ability to make missiles go hypersonic for 50 years and there is… Read more »

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
14 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

US-Australia already have a joint Hypersonic weapon program. The UK interest through AUKUS is reported to be mainly in counter-hypersonics rather than offensive weapons.

Last edited 14 days ago by Watcherzero
Nicholas
Nicholas
14 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

From what I have read the UK is not going to buy into the US’s own hypersonic programme.
‘British sources, however, said the UK had not committed to buying any hypersonic weapons, and is only engaged in a research and development phase before deciding how to proceed.’
I suspect the announcement is no more than fluff despite the excitement, The US already has missiles that could fill our gaps now, but we choose not to go that way,

lee1
lee1
14 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

I imagine it will be more of an information sharing agreement in some areas.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
14 days ago

In reality, DSTL has been working on hypersonics for some time, all classified. So although we had no official program in the open up and running we can contribute to the existing USAUS program.

Mark Franks
Mark Franks
14 days ago

It’s all very well developing these weapons non of which we have although the US has been trialing but development has been disappointing a bit like catching up with the Soviets during the Gemini and Apollo missions. Developing systems to counter these weapons is also key as China appears to be well ahead of the game on this one.

Sean the real Sean
Sean the real Sean
14 days ago
Reply to  Mark Franks

Both China and India have hyper sonic programs in the final stages of development , catching up will not be possible , rather Johnny come lately . Also
Australia is just waiting till after the Election there to announce purchasing Subs rather than building and the Type-83 will be a part of the continuous build involving evolving Type 45 to assuage the electorate of critical Seats .

lee1
lee1
14 days ago
Reply to  Mark Franks

I would not say that exactly. It looks like the Russian Hypersonic missiles have some major issues apparently. It is all good to say “Hey we have hypersonic missiles” I am sure most countries could produce a missile that could achieve high speed. The issue is producing a hypersonic missile that actually works properly.

Mark franks
Mark franks
14 days ago
Reply to  lee1

Lee this is something I mentioned in a previous post and was shot down, excuse the pun. Let’s see now, in order for the SR71 to achieve mach 3 without the aircraft ripping itself apart, Lockheed skunk works had to develop a way of manufacturing the skin of the aircraft out of titanium which is still a difficult process, why? The reason was the incredible heat produced by that speed the friction of air passing over airframe would create. Titanium is a heavy metal in weight. If anyone can let me know what the casing of the delivery vehicle is… Read more »

lee1
lee1
14 days ago
Reply to  Mark franks

Titanium is not heavy… In fact for a similar strength it is lighter than aluminium. It is however much harder to work with and more costly. The real problem is control. Missiles need to be agile in order to be accurate. Controlling a hypersonic projectile is tricky as all sorts of issues rear their head at those speeds. So it looks like the Russian missiles can only go hypersonic in a straight line and then have to slow down to turn. This makes them vulnerable near the end of their mission. The sheer heat they give off also makes them… Read more »

Mark franks
Mark franks
14 days ago
Reply to  lee1

Titanium is actually two thirds heavier than aluminium but 3 times lighter than steel. Correction that Titainium is heavy that was my mistake. Scramjet technology is the way to go the UK and Australia have been devopling this propelltion over coming heat induction problems with airflow in the compression chamber. Ground testing has shown it is possible to achieve a speed of mach 15 however I think scramjet needs boosting to a speed of mach 5 ro get to this theoretical speed.

Last edited 14 days ago by Mark franks
JayR
JayR
13 days ago
Reply to  Mark franks

You are correct. The friction is immense, for the SR71, MiG31 etc the problem is also the mating surfaces, fasteners etc, the all need to expand and shrink at the same rate, ond absorb the energy of this shrinking and expansion time and time again. For a missile it is simpler, due to much more relaxed design constraints.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
14 days ago
Reply to  lee1

Spot on

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
13 days ago
Reply to  Mark Franks

We may not be as far behind as you would think with the reports upto 60% of the weapons Russia has used in Ukraine have misfired at launch or malfunctioned and their poor accuracy. Prime example of Russia trying to oversell them was the Russian armed forces releasing a video of a hypersonic weapon hitting a Ukrainian ammo dump in Lviv which was geolocated to actually be an abandoned farm only a few km across the border from Belgorod. You also have the Indian Brahmos misfiring which essentially ran along the Pakistan border giving ample tracking opportunity shows it mostly… Read more »

Last edited 13 days ago by Watcherzero
Bloke down the pub
Bloke down the pub
14 days ago

“Today, the leaders of the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) partnership –…– assessed progress under AUKUS.
We reaffirmed our commitment to AUKUS and …..
We are pleased with the progress in our trilateral programme for Australia to establish a conventionally armed, nuclear‑powered submarine capability”

I wonder if real progress has been made, or if they are just easily pleased.

Paul42
Paul42
14 days ago

Its about time we finally got our backsides into gear to obtain a weapon instead of just talking about it!!

Last edited 14 days ago by Paul42
DanielMorgan
DanielMorgan
14 days ago

The US has just leap frogged the Russians and the Chinese in the hypersonic race. In a September 2021 test kept secret until recently, the US successfully tested a scramjet hypersonic missile, a technology that the Russians and Chinese have not mastered. Russian and Chinese hypersonic missiles are boost glide vehicles. The advantage of scramjet hypersonic missiles is that they are smaller so a carrier can carry more and internally. A B-52 could probably carry 15-20 in an internal rotary rack. More importantly, a scramjet missile can function as a hypersonic cruise missile. It is estimated that the US currently… Read more »

Martin
Martin
13 days ago

It’s good to see AUKUS will be supporting power point warriors now Putin is unable to support them any longer.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
13 days ago

“The Australian government has awarded a multimillion-dollar grant to a reusable hypersonic unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) project. The grant is expected to boost the development of high-temperature composites, which the country lacks.”

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/defence/latest/australias-hypersonic-uav-project-to-boost-advanced-materials

Terence Patrick Hewett
Terence Patrick Hewett
13 days ago

As I see it, the UK’s current hypersonic involvement is tied up with MBDA: but I would be looking for another strand, involving future new companies/startups with AUKUS partners.

Bringer of Facts
Bringer of Facts
13 days ago

Here are some questions for our physics experts:

Do you need to put an explosive warhead on a hypersonic missile ?

Would the kinetic impact alone be enough to destroy most targets ?

What would be the effect of a harpoon size hypersonic hitting a 5000-ton ship at Mach 5?

Would there be any survivors?

DRS
DRS
13 days ago

Just look at what SM2/3 ABM defence missiles do no warhead just smash into the incoming warhead. There is enough kinetic energy to smash up a ship or else fairly well. Or it may just fly thru if it doesn’t hit anything dense?

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
13 days ago
Reply to  DRS

That is where you need the charge to convert the kinetic energy of the missile into destructive forces. You would probably want the heat shield to fragment to do the damage.

Otherwise all you end up with is a warship with a neat(ish) hole punched through it.

JayR
JayR
13 days ago

Yes, for the missile to be effective you need it to break up behind itself, creating a plasma dollop, heat melts steel. In fact thinking about it, a softer grade of steel may in fact be better defence against hypersonic missiles. That way the projectile would simply punch a hole and pass thru the initial layer. Maybe a layered steel skin the outer most layers being softer. The inner layers being the hardest. Like an offset steel shield to absorb the hypersonic energy? I couldn’t see a missile or Seawizz system being able to react fast enough?

Last edited 13 days ago by JayR
James
James
13 days ago

Hypersonic missiles dont actually impact the target at such a speed though from what I have read?

The air resistance alone at low altitudes is a major issue at anything near hypersonic speeds, they are launched enter a hypersonic speed at very high altitude to give very little reaction time to radar/defences then engage the target more like a conventional missile at target level.

Unless various types/technologies are being used!

JayR
JayR
13 days ago

The impact of a 500kg projectile going from Mach 12 to 0 is going to generate an extreme amount of heat, equivalent to 100s of tons of tnt. Yes a warhead would add to this carange, but in reality it would pose an enormous engineering challenge, due to the extreme heat, pressure and time constraints. The air in front of a hypersonic would also be superheated due to the extreme friction. So in summary a tungsten carbide spear sitting at the front of a titanium missile, travelling at Mach 12 is in itself a warhead. I am no expert
.

Esteban
Esteban
13 days ago

Johnny come lately

Mark Anthony Wallace
Mark Anthony Wallace
13 days ago

And in the meantime Australia decides that they will replace Harpoon with new JSM. Why the heck cannot the UK do the same for T26 and T46. The new Persus will take some years to come into service and we have a gap now. Once we have hypersonic missiles then the JSM can be fitted to T31/T32 or perhaps a shore battery or two would be useful.
If this terrible business in Ukraine has shown, our armed forces need to be equipped now with sufficient weapons and not in future with tomorrow’s new superweapons.

DJ
DJ
13 days ago

Actually they are replacing Harpoon with NSM, not JSM (related but slightly different missile).

Chris Wernert
Chris Wernert
16 minutes ago

Australia needs to crank up its readiness on all fronts and weapons on hand.Quickly.

Chris Wernert
Chris Wernert
10 minutes ago

Purchasing off the Shelf weapons is needed urgently for Australia.Training of ADF Personnel to use these new and existing weapons is also urgent. If practical, timelines have to be brought forward.