A Minister has confirmed that the UK is “accelerating development of advanced hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities”.

Jeremy Quin, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, said recently:

“The Integrated Review settlement has enabled the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to build upon previous research and development programmes to explore hypersonic technologies.

The MOD is working closely with AUKUS partners to accelerate development of advanced hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities to meet current and future threats.”

In April, I reported that Britain would 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.”

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.

“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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RobW
RobW
2 days ago

By “we” does that mean the US? Also, what does this mean for FC/ASW? I can’t imagine we’ll be paying for both, although where that leaves MBDA who knows.

Sean
Sean
2 days ago
Reply to  RobW

FC/ASW isn’t planned to be hypersonic and you wouldn’t use the highest-end (ie most expensive) weapon against all threats at all ranges.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
2 days ago
Reply to  Sean

Wasn’t it announced by the MoD a few months back that two missiles were being seriously considered to fulfil this full requirement and a hypersonic version was indeed being considered as part of this programme?

RobW
RobW
2 days ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Yes it was, hence my original question.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 day ago
Reply to  RobW

Yes my surprise too as I had not heard any update to that update. So let’s be clear from the latest news a hypersonic version rather than supersonic has been definitely ruled out it seems. Considering the timescale here probably understandable and was a surprise they were considering it at all tbh who knows when it might have taken flight if ever and at what cost .

Last edited 1 day ago by Spyinthesky
Sean
Sean
2 days ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Last I saw there’s only 2 versions planned:
• stealthy that would sea-skim
• supersonic

Paul Green
Paul Green
1 day ago
Reply to  Sean

https://newsroom.mbda-systems.com/uk-and-france-advance-future-cruiseanti-ship-weapon-project/

Correct. According to MBDA press release above, a subsonic low observable concept and a supersonic, highly manoeuvrable concept

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 day ago
Reply to  Sean

Yes but they were at least as reported here, only a few months back that the supersonic version was being assessed as to whether hypersonic should be considered for that role, I hadn’t seen any update that one presumes Others have and the link seems to confirm it. Seemed optimistic at the time, I wonder if any such weapon if it ever happens in any foreseeable timescale is now transferred into cross Atlantic cooperation instead. Or maybe seeing how vulnerable Russian rustbuckets have been to even moderately modern missiles it’s not seen as a priority to presently consider. I suspect… Read more »

Last edited 1 day ago by Spyinthesky
Sean
Sean
1 day ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

A hypersonic capability will add years to the development of FC/ASW. Now it’s possible they could do it in two phases, stealthy sea-skimmer first and then hypersonic. But given how experimental hypersonic technology is, there’s no guarantee the stealthy design could be modified to a hypersonic version.

Near term stealthy and supersonic will be more than sufficient for both Russian and Chinese vessels.

Longer term, new hypersonic weapons will be required.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 day ago
Reply to  Sean

I think we do get a little hung up on the term hypersonic as if in itself it’s a completely different beast, I find myself having to take a step back in all honesty. Let’s be honest a missile that travels at 3500 to 4000 mph is going to be pretty damn lethal even though it’s not technically hypersonic, just look at Starstreak. Range, size, stealth and cost also come into the equation too of course. But fact is if it’s more accurate and more manoeuvrable then a nigh supersonic missile is likely going to be a far more effective… Read more »

Sean
Sean
1 day ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Agreed.
Fast you go, the harder it is to be accurate – though the Russians seem to have that issue with subsonic weapons.

Horses for courses, and at the moment even the rag and bone man’s clapped out old shire horse would suffice against most Russian nags.

Nathan Mooney
Nathan Mooney
13 hours ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Accuracy and reliability is a problem for now, but a solution will be developed eventually. When that happens, the benefits of such a technology will be realised, as with any advancement in weaponry.

Hermes
Hermes
41 minutes ago
Reply to  Sean

Remember that we are talking about anti-ship weapons. The Hypersonic Missile, as a super weapon, does not offer enough flexibility against a moving target. High supersonic weapons are superior against moving targets. Subsonic stealth weapons offer a cost effective and flexible solution. Long range, can be used against complex targets (in town for example…). With a low altitude penetration they are also very hard to destroy. They are quite suitable for global missions. Hypersonic weapons are more strategic and used against static targets. Having the FC/ASW as a mainly antiship weapon with landstrike capability is more interesting for RN and… Read more »

Nicholas
Nicholas
1 day ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

We have two missiles for the air defence role (broadly), it would seem sensible to have more than one for the ASW role depending on the target and the range. It might split the workforce for design and manufacture though.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
2 days ago
Reply to  RobW

And does it mean that the interim AShM is still a goer (5 sets or more) or not now?

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
2 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

And will hypersonics definitely require MK41 or other VLS’ or also be cannister launched?

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
1 day ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

The USA are fitting big launch tubes for hypersonic missile to the zumwalt class in place of the guns. I think it’s 6 cells. They are much bigger than a Mk41 launcher. Guess it’s a wait and see game.
Higher speed normally takes more fuel which in turn means lower range or bigger missile. Bigger missile means more fuel needed to get heavier weight to set speed and so on and so on. The lower you fly the harder it is to go faster. Can’t wait to see what ideas actually work out for the future.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
1 day ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Thanks MS, I wonder then if we’ve limited ourselves then with the Mk41s unless they’re adaptable somehow?

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 day ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Plenty of time to change their mind yet again on that one no doubt 🧨

Frank62
Frank62
1 day ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Every one of our escorts needs AShMs. We’re playing Russian roulette with our warships

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
1 day ago
Reply to  Frank62

No we are not.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
1 day ago
Reply to  Frank62

You’re upsetting RB below with your last comment…lol. I think you’re both right. There is the whole of kill chain and working in an alliance okay but on a stand alone basis I’m with you. Fighting ships need to have some ability to destroy other ships even if it’s not their primary focus. You’re not going to be able to choose your adversary or where they are or what armaments they have so you need your own big stick. We’d all like to see an extra 1-2 Astutes, 2-3 P8s in the fleet too and air launched LRASMs too to… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 day ago
Reply to  Frank62

How are the Russian ships opposing the RN and NATO going to target the RNs escorts to launch their ASM when they are sitting in the Kara and Barents sea?

Do you think our own escorts would be sailing off Murmansk waiting to get shot at?

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
2 days ago
Reply to  RobW

If I remember rightly the FC/ASW dropped the hypersonic capability. This article may answer why that was done. I suspect that the seeker head tech at hypersonic speed still has a long way to go if it is to meet the precision that the RN and other NATO / Western navies would require. So I infer from this that the aspirations for FC/ASW has been wound back to more realistic levels as the grown ups realise that accurately guided hypersonic weapons are not quite where they need to be, Russian and Chinese programs notwithstanding. (I suspect that the latter whilst… Read more »

Jon
Jon
1 day ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Nothing has been agreed or dropped definitively. The two weapons have entered a three year “assessment phase”, or “preparatory phase” as the French call it (except in French). If the high-supersonic one turns out to be Mach 5.5 rather than Mach 4.5, then it does.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 day ago
Reply to  Jon

Makes sense doesn’t it do what is presently feasible but keep options open to push it further as and when events dictate a requirement and technology can achieve it. All a little nuanced and no doubt no one wants to make promises that can’t be kept … well except for Putin and co.

OkamsRazor
OkamsRazor
1 day ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

I seem to remember an FT report of the last Chinese hypersonic missile test, I believe around September last year, missing it’s target by appx 20 nm, so yes “accuracy” does seem to be a problem, hype not withstanding.

simon alexander
simon alexander
1 day ago
Reply to  OkamsRazor

more hype than sonic? how can you make flight alterations at that speed, enough that you could hit a moving ship, or how do your sensors not burn up before you find and hit the target?

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 day ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

I reckon you are right certainly interesting that Russia’s boasting of its hypersonic capabilities has by reports seen little use in Ukraine only one confirmed that I read last week which either means they can’t afford to use the few they have or/and they aren’t particularly accurate or useful in that environment. Considering the lack of accuracy attributed to their other missiles I suspect they haven’t sorted that as yet. The last test by the Chinese as impressive as it was did miss the target by some miles so not exactly a game changer for anti ship warfare unless it’s… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 days ago

“UK confirms it is accelerating hypersonic weapon project”
Great pun George

As Sean says below we need a range of weapons to deal with a range of targets and options.

If cash becomes a little less of a problem so of the multi mode, which actually makes the developments harder and therefore slower and more expensive can be focussed on getting things into service a little faster.

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
2 days ago

Lot more collaboration coming to light in the UK of late with both our international partners & between our own armed forces. Includes fast moving IT conglomerates and the long promised SME input. Instance: initiatives such as the Tech Bridge, Stormcloud and Defence Battlelab articled in Navy News.
Together with infrastructure acceleration, I like these unsexy, below the parapet developments.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 days ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

It is also a changing dynamic in terms of speed of development/fast prototyping.

Much helped by 3D printing, very good digital modelling and above all how much of it is in the software/firmware.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 day ago

Yes I added this link to another thread on a drone I had never heard of before that had been mentioned by the MoD I think regarding the conclusion of their 3 year study into drones in contested skies ( and loyal wingman concepts it seems). It’s been produced in little over a year and 3D printed. Sounds very promising and the company behind it seem to be exactly the sort we need to encourage for industry generally let alone defence.
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/raf-intrepid-minds-collaborate-first-fully-3d-printed-

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
2 days ago

I think this may have overlap to what I wrote on the other thread covering UK French fighter dogfighting and what we can bring to the table potentially on hypersonics so won’t repeat it here. However the ‘bringing in other allies’ to projects sounds interesting I wonder if Japan can expect a call at some stage and may it indicate some overlap as I pondered between any Anglo Japanese fighter jet combo and technologies potentially exploited there in with hypersonic developments in missiles in particular the latest Reaction Engines tests to accommodate its pre cooler tech with current or future… Read more »

Joe16
Joe16
2 days ago

To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed. UK industrial share in complex weapons via MBDA is a proven success story that works. By contrast, the UK’s involvement with the US when it comes to complex weapons has only ever been at detriment to UK involvement. Unless we’re buying off-the-shelf, I don’t see any benefit to trying to work it with them. Unless we’re talkign about a hypersonics capability that differs in some way from FC/ASW, I think the government is getting carried away with AUKUS and risking detrimenting real existing UK jobs and market share for pie in the sky… Read more »

Nicholas
Nicholas
1 day ago
Reply to  Joe16

Splitting our financial, and more importantly, human resources on different projects doesn’t seem sensible if the outcome required is the same.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
1 day ago
Reply to  Joe16

Does anyone know exactly where the FC/ASW is at? Is it 1-2 or 3-7 years away? Don’t know if we can wait that long and why so long still? There needs to be some sense of urgency. Seems like the UK is backing 2-3 horses that have yet to cross the line yet.

John Hartley
John Hartley
1 day ago

I do fear “hypersonic” is becoming the latest buzz word. An Ajax/Nimrod fiasco may await us. Would not a supersonic weapon that works & is affordable, not be a better bet?

David Steeper
David Steeper
1 day ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Absolutely not all the cool kids are going for hypersonic !

John Hartley
John Hartley
2 hours ago
Reply to  David Steeper

All hail the new shiny!

DanielMorgan
DanielMorgan
1 day ago

The US has ten known hypersonic missile projects underway and perhaps more that are classified, split between the US Navy, Army and Air Force. The only known US/AUS program is SCIFIRE, solid rocket hypersonic cruise missiles to be carried and launched by carrier-based fighters and from Poseidon P-8s. I assume that this is the program being referred to in the article.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 day ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

Tested two in the last few days an air launched from a B52 which was the first successful launch of the system, and a ground launched missile from a Marine truck to prove the launcher can be operated from a wide range of standard vehicles. Both successful it seems though the latter might have simply been a proof of concept with a non hypersonic missile. Certainly ramping up their progress despite previous failures.

DanielMorgan
DanielMorgan
1 day ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Actually, the scramjet hypersonic missile program has been very successful. It’s the glide vehicle hypersonic program that has had all of the failures. Russian and Chinese missiles are glide vehicles. To my knowledge, only the US has been successful with a scramjet hypersonic missile. The US has been involved with scram jets since the 1950s.

Frank62
Frank62
1 day ago

Too little, too late. At least some in government are waking up to the reality of the threats. We need ship & airborne long range surface strike missile ability asap & better missile defences too.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
1 day ago
Reply to  Frank62

I also hope that that all these new hypersonics actually fit into the SL Mk41s and not require another vls type or maybe be cannister launched. Do you know if there are variants of the actual MK41s to accomodate larger missiles?
Agree with you, can’t faff around for another 1-2 years, a sensible interim missile purchase could be prudent right now unless hypersonics are literally right around the bloody corner so to speak! And do we actually need hypersonics for killing everything?

Just Me
Just Me
1 day ago

US/AUS/U.K. developing a common long range hypersonic land attack and anti ship missile.

DanielMorgan
DanielMorgan
1 day ago
Reply to  Just Me

What’s the name of the program?

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
8 seconds ago

You do NOT stand a chance Why China now on 2nd generation hypersonic Also has a large test wind tunnel soley purposed for Hypersonic And can launch medium or long range from land ,surface ship and submarine Advanced radar At forefront of using AI to enable missile to bob and weave making it impossible to target far less hit Will launch 28000 satellites before 2025 All integrated with ground station radars and computers to enhance hypersonic accuracy China has the highly developed electricity grid globally which is essential for test tunnels And 3 centres of excellence in AI,Weapon design and… Read more »