The US, UK, and Australia stated on Tuesday that they will collaborate on hypersonic missile development under the AUKUS security partnership, which was recently formed.
The decision comes as the US and its allies become increasingly concerned about China’s growing military assertiveness in the Pacific. Following a check-in on the success of AUKUS, the Indo-Pacific alliance created by the three countries in September, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled the proposal.
In a joint statement, the presidents said they are “committed today to begin new trilateral cooperation on hypersonics and counterhypersonics, as well as expanding information sharing and deepening cooperation on defense innovation.”
The United States, Russia, and China have all been working on hypersonic missiles, which are so fast that they can’t be intercepted by current missile defense systems.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, revealed in October that China had tested a hypersonic missile system as part of its ambitious endeavor to develop in space and military technologies.
In a Bloomberg Television interview, Milley described the Chinese test as a “highly big event of a test of a hypersonic missile system, and that is quite frightening.”
According to the senior US commander in Europe, Russia has used hypersonic missiles “several” times in Ukraine.
Last November, as US intelligence officials grew increasingly concerned about Russian forces massing on the Ukraine border, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the country’s arms industry to build even more advanced hypersonic missiles in order to maintain the country’s technological lead.
The Russian military claims that the Avangard system can travel 27 times faster than sound and make rapid twists on its way to a target in order to avoid the enemy’s missile shield. Instead of older type warheads, it was installed to existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the first unit armed with the Avangard went into service in December 2019.
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According to Russian officials, the Kinzhal, which is carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (approximately 1,250 miles) and flies at 10 times the speed of sound.
The Pentagon’s budget plan for 2023 includes $4.7 billion for hypersonic weapons research and development. It includes plans to have a hypersonic missile battery operational by next year, a sea-based missile operational by 2025, and an air-based cruise missile operational by 2027.
The formation of AUKUS has been hailed by Biden, Johnson, and Morrison as an opportunity to increase defense capability sharing. As their first significant step, the alliance announced that it will assist Australia in the procurement of nuclear-powered submarines.
Morrison claimed that the development of hypersonic missiles was in line with Australia’s two-year-old strategic strategy to improve the military’s long-range attack capabilities.
“The most important goal is to get that capability as quickly as possible and in the greatest form possible to engage with our partners,” Morrison told reporters.
Because of the mounting risks posed by Russia and China, Australia’s Defense Minister Peter Dutton announced plans to spend $2.6 billion on long-range strike missiles for fighter jets and warships years ahead of schedule.
Concerns over a prospective Chinese naval presence 1,200 miles off the northeast Australian coast have been raised by a draft security deal between the Solomon Islands and China. China has denied pursuing a military presence in the Solomon Islands, and the Solomon Islands government has stated that it will not allow China to create a military facility there.