* The National Defense Industrial Association will hold its inaugural Hypersonics Capabilities Conference at Purdue University from July 30 to Aug. 1. This timely and well-placed event reflects a growing need for collaboration among government, industry and academia. We hope the collaboration also addresses affordability and combat effectiveness.
First, some background. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated that the U.S. expeditionary force relies upon continued domain access and dominance to maneuver, engage and sustain its forces. This model has been successful, but it has been an Achilles' heel. A credible threat to the ships and theater bases enabling American power projection would significantly degrade combat effectiveness. The Chinese and Russians took note.
The Defense Department's 2019 military assessment of China reports that the nation sees "logistics and power projection assets as potential vulnerabilities in modem warfare--a judgment in accord with an expanding ability to target regional air bases, logistics and port facilities, communications and other ground-based infrastructure."
The Army faces similar problems. Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work said, "We have 58 brigade combat teams, but we don't have anything to protect our bases. So what difference does it make?"
Recognizing this threat, the 2018 National Defense Strategy calls for sustained and predictable modernization investments. Without them, the United States risks a joint force "irrelevant to the defense of our people."
In 2018, Adm. Harry Harris, then U.S. Pacific Command commander, and now U.S. ambassador to South Korea, testified that China and Russia continue to develop and field "counter-intervention technologies" with hypersonic vehicles which threaten U.S. "freedom of movement and maneuver."
The threat from hypersonics is not speed but maneuverability. In 2004, the Air Force's test objectives for the Common Aero Vehicle were to travel greater than Mach 5, maneuver a cross-range of 3,000 nautical miles and strike with an accuracy of 9 feet. Cross-range measures the ability to maneuver axially from a standard ballistic trajectory. This would enable a weapon apparently on a ballistic trajectory toward Los Angeles to maneuver and strike New York. The United States does not have a defense against these weapons.
Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said America will "have to create a new industrial...