After Russia and China, Iran touts hypersonic missiles that can fly at 12-15 Mach

Will it leave the US behind?
Ameya Paleja
Iran says it will unveil its hypersonic missile soon
Iran says it will soon unveil its hypersonic missile


Iran has become the latest nation-state to boast about its development of hypersonic missile technology. Adversaries like Russia and China have already deployed hypersonic missiles, and with Iran in tow, it could be the third country to use the technology before the U.S. gets through its testing phases.

Hypersonic missiles can travel at speeds five times greater than that of sound (Mach 5). Along with high speeds, the missiles also have high maneuverability, which makes them harder to track by air defense systems. This makes them highly effective tools to take out air defenses during times of combat, and over the past few years, they have rightly become the next frontier of warfare.

Iran to unveil hypersonic missile soon

Last week, Iran unveiled a new ballistic missile with a range of 1,242 miles (2,000 km) and a payload capacity of a ton (907 kg). The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has now confirmed that the country will also soon unveil a hypersonic missile.

Back in November last year, the head of IRGC's aerospace unit, Amirali Hajizadeh, claimed that the country had developed a hypersonic missile. The U.S. had, however, expressed skepticism over the claims. Now, Hajizadeh has told an Iranian news agency that the missile has passed all its tests and will soon be unveiled.

As per reports, the missile is capable of maneuvering itself both inside and outside the atmosphere and can fly at speeds between 12-15 Mach, making it a potent threat to air defense systems.

After Russia and China, Iran touts hypersonic missiles that can fly at 12-15 Mach
Representative image of a hypersonic missile

Even if Teharan might be making tall claims about its missiles, currently, the U.S. is still lagging behind. Even as Russian and China have begun deploying their own hypersonic missiles, the U.S. has remained focused on ballistic missiles and has found itself lacking in the hypersonic arms race.

Part of the blame must go to the three divisions of the military, each developing its own hypersonic missiles with strict restrictions on not using nuclear warheads. In the past couple of years, hypersonic missile tests have been riddled with failures, further setting back the likelihood of their deployment.

While there have been partial successes, the technology deployment has been delayed due to some unknown status for vulnerabilities such as cyber disruption. The 2024 Budget for the Air Force only includes provisions for the development of the technology but not for buying or fielding hypersonic missiles, EurAsian Times reported. These delays could give countries like Iran and North Korea an advantage and put the U.S. further down the pecking order in the hypersonic arms race.

Higher costs of the technology are also adding to delays in its acquisition. But can the U.S. really afford these delays?

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