The Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom (UK) recently announced that it had chosen a number of crucial future technologies on which it expects to spend $2.5 billion over the next four years. The ministry revealed that the country will concentrate on programs to develop “the generation-after-next of military capabilities” between 2022 and 2026. However, one initiative, in particular, has garnered attention: the development of hypersonic weapons.
According to this press release, the British Armed Forces will be better equipped against future threats by developing a new weapon demonstrator capable of operating at hypersonic speeds.
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Furthermore, the country will increase research into AI technologies in order to understand how they could aid front-line service personnel. It will also invest in improving intelligence, communication, and surveillance capabilities in space.
Defence Science and Technology Laboratory or Dstl Chief Executive Dr. Paul Hollinshead said, “Dstl’s world-class scientists are committed to delivering the best scientific advice and technological solutions, giving the armed forces operational advantage, the edge in decision making, and saving lives.”
According to Dstl, the new portfolio will see defense invest heavily in hypersonic research as well as AI, cyber, electromagnet activities, innovative sensors, sophisticated materials, space, and assistance for nuclear deterrence.
The United Kingdom is stepping up its efforts to develop hypersonic weapons. In April, US President Joe Biden, UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and then Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the AUKUS trilateral security pact would be expanded to include “cooperation on hypersonics and counter-hypersonic” weapons.
Hypersonic missiles, which can deliver nuclear or conventional warheads, fly at least five times the speed of sound, making them significantly quicker than cruise missiles. They are maneuverable, which allows them to evade conventional missile defense systems.
Why Does UK Want Hypersonic Weapons?
Early this year, Tony Radakin, the UK’s Chief of Defense Staff, said that his country is developing hypersonic weapons to counter Russia’s expanding military might. “We haven’t [got them] and we must have,” he said.
Similarly, the UK’s national security advisor, Stephen Lovegrove, earlier stated that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made it “more important than ever that allies work together to defend democracy, international law, and freedom around the world.”
The Ukraine war has put missiles at the top of several countries’ priority lists. Prior to its invasion of Ukraine, Russia tested roughly ten new Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missiles from a frigate and two more from a submarine.
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