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Need for speed

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Science  10 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6474, pp. 134-138
DOI: 10.1126/science.367.6474.134

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Summary

Since the dawn of the Cold War, the Pentagon has periodically thrown its weight behind the development of weapons that travel at hypersonic speed—generally defined as Mach 5 or greater—and maneuver aerodynamically, enabling them to dodge defenses and keep an adversary guessing about the target. But technological hurdles proved daunting. Now, the U.S. Department of Defense is leading a new charge, pouring more than $1 billion annually into hypersonic research. Competition from ambitious programs in China and Russia is a key motivator. Although hype and secrecy muddy the picture, all three nations appear to have made substantial progress in overcoming key obstacles, such as protecting hypersonic craft from savage frictional heating. This new arms race promises to upend strategic calculations.

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