Should America Buy 2,000 Hypersonic Missiles Instead of Another Carrier?

Should America Buy 2,000 Hypersonic Missiles Instead of Another Carrier?

David Axe

Security, Americas

Which is a better use of taxpayer money?

Key point: If carriers are too expensive and vulnerable, perhaps a lot of long-range missiles would be more useful in a war.

The U.S. military should consider buying a huge arsenal of long-range, hypersonic missiles instead of trying to maintain a large fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

That’s one idea that Mike Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering,  proposed at a Washington, D.C. conference in September 2019.

“Let’s just propose a thought experiment,” Griffin said, according to Defense News. “Which do you think the Chinese leadership would fear more: 2,000 conventional strike missiles possessed by the United States and its allies in the western Pacific capable of ranging Chinese targets, or one new carrier? Because those two things cost about the same amount of money. Those are the kinds of questions we need to be asking ourselves.”

The Chinese military is moving quickly to field hypersonic missiles, outpacing the Pentagon’s own efforts to deploy similar munitions.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is struggling to pay for the ships it says it needs in order to grow from a front-line fleet of around 290 ships today to one with more than 350 ships, including at least 11 large aircraft carriers.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army on Oct. 1, 2019 revealed a new hypersonic missile that could pose a major threat to U.S. forces in the Pacific region.

The DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle, or HGV, made its public debut as part of the PLA’s sprawling, 15,000-person military parade in Beijing commemorating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

While other countries also are working on hypersonic weapons — meaning powered or gliding precision-guided munitions that can travel faster than five times the speed of sound —  the DF-17 apparently is the first or second hypersonic glide vehicle in the regular inventory of any military. Russia claimed it also would deploy an HGV in 2019.

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