TechDark Eagle delays further hinder the USA's hypersonic weapon race

Dark Eagle delays further hinder the USA's hypersonic weapon race

Dark Eagle system launcher
Dark Eagle system launcher
Images source: © US Army

9:51 AM EDT, June 19, 2024

According to a report published on June 17 by the Government Accountability Office, the American hypersonic missile program Dark Eagle has encountered additional problems related to the launchers and the launch system of the new weapon. Due to these issues, the USA must delay the deployment of the first LRHW battery by several more months. Initially, this was supposed to happen in 2023, but the current plans now set the deployment for 2025. These delays are causing the USA to fall further behind in the race for effective hypersonic weapons against Russia and China, which already possess such capabilities.

The introduction of the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon system (LRHWS), also known as Dark Eagle, has been delayed, as reported by Eurasian Times. As stated in the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report: "The Army missed its goal of fielding its first Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon battery — including missiles — by fiscal year 2023 due to integration challenges".

Dark Eagle encounters more problems

According to the GAO, the deployment might be delayed until fiscal year 2025. However, Americans plan to resolve the issues with LRHW by the end of 2024 and conduct tests of the missiles and launchers within this fiscal year. It is worth mentioning here that the American fiscal year starts on October 1 and ends on September 30. However, the GAO does not rule out that Dark Eagle could face additional delays. The Eurasian Times highlights concerns about missile performance during flight tests.

Delays related to the development of the LRHW weapons create a significant gap between the hypersonic capabilities of the United States and those of Russia and China. These two countries are also conducting intensive work in this area and have managed to deploy various types of hypersonic weapons. In the case of Russia, these are the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missiles and the 3M22 Zircon missiles. China, on the other hand, can boast the DF-27 missiles and their air-launched variant YJ-21. China is emerging as a leader in hypersonic weapons, regularly showcasing its achievements. Iran and North Korea are also frequently mentioned among the alleged possessors of hypersonic weapons.

LRHW - American hypersonic weapon

The LHRW weapon is intended to be a ground-based system, including a hypersonic missile, transport equipment, support systems, and a fire control system. According to Douglas Bush, Deputy Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, the LHRW's range will be approximately 1,680 miles. The missile launched by the system is expected to travel at speeds over Mach 5, or about 3,730 mph.

The US Army anticipates that the LHRW system's missiles will be able to reach the edge of the Earth's atmosphere and remain just out of reach of enemy air and missile defense systems until they are ready to strike. This deprives the opponent of certainty about the ultimate target of the attack and simultaneously minimizes their reaction time to emerging threats.

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