After almost seven decades of development and testing in high-speed flight, the U.S. finally looked set to become the undisputed leader in hypersonics. What changed? Listen in as our editors discuss.
The problem as far as I see it is the USSR was well ahead of what the USA thought. I can remember US experts scoffing when Russia in the early 2000s said they had achieved hypersonic speed using a scramjet for quite a few minutes. Being a relatively new area it also depends on how adventurous your top scientists are. Something the Soviets and now Russia are usually better at. Something to do with Russian culture. An adventurous attitude well seen in there Cold War aircraft designers. People who are seen as more or less heroes by the people and there political leaders. Design Bureaus where the lead Engineer or Scientists have real control without the interference of bureacratic empire building accountant types once money is allocated at a Political level. This of course allows engineers to be creative. From what I have read the USSR was far more advanced in these areas by 1990 and it has only taken a small amount of money on a consistent basis to progress a lot further. Not sure about China? Why they are more advanced than was expected. As an Australian I would describe it as the willingness in Russia to "Have a go." Always much easier if you can keep the empire building bureacratic accountant types out. Exactly the words a Russian Physicist use to describe his experiences working in the US for 5 years. "It drives me nuts the way US bureaucrats who usually outrank the engineers and scientists in the US get in the way. I will return to Russia for half the pay to just get away from them". "In Russia once money is allocated that type are relegated to simply keeping the books. The engineers and scientusts have the real power from then on. One of the reasons we often can do things for a fraction of the cost as the USA." "I am coming home next year now that Rostrum is back on its feet and becoming the leading Nuclear Power building firm in the world. Anything to get away from the bureaucrats in most US companies who think they are the most important people in the company."
Yeah, yeah Ivan,
Your industry structure is so perfect for copying other countries' designs. That is why the B-29 was copied even to a fault. A bullet hole and patch in the rear fuselage was incorporated into the soviet design by Tupolev. The Konkorski was a bad copy of the Anglo-French Concorde and subsequently disintegrated over Paris. The Buran was a clumsy, over-stuffed copy of our shuttle in the States. It never flew with a crew. So tell me what original work do you really do? Your new, supposedly, fifth generation fighter has many elements of the F-22, except it flies with old engines and will be a sitting duck for the F-22s and F-35s electronics. Just go back to the old soviet model of a perfect society which could not even feed its people, much less think independently. Dosvidanya.
Even the podcast noted that the major counter to this technology being employed against the US is deterrence. How does the current ICBM fleet not fulfill this role? We could develop a maneuvering RV, they were demonstrated a decade ago. The new crop of engineers just need to learn the new and old "lessons learned". They didn't have that opportunity with just two attempts in rapid succession.
The nuclear issue is economic and political, we can certainly outfit an RV with conventional munitions, reconnaissance systems etc. The dollars per bang is much lower. The political issue is likely the real killer though. How does the adversary, or the adversary's allies and treaty signatories know what the munition really is? Will we provoke a nuclear exchange by destroying N. Korea's launch facilities or cutting a road between Iraq and Kuwyat (considering a future hypothetical and past possible use for such a non-nuclear rapid response system)?
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