Hypersonic weapons will upend current war strategies. From R. Jeffry Smith at publicintegrity.org:
How hypersonic missiles — which travel at more than 15 times the speed of sound — are touching off a new global arms race that threatens to change the nature of warfare.
This story was published in partnership with The New York Times Magazine.
On March 6, 2018, the grand ballroom at the Sphinx Club in Washington was packed with aerospace-industry executives waiting to hear from Michael D. Griffin. Weeks earlier, Secretary of Defense James Mattis named the 69-year-old Maryland native as the Pentagon’s under secretary for research and engineering, a job that comes with an annual budget of more than $17 billion. So the dark-suited attendees at the McAleese/Credit Suisse Defense Programs Conference were eager to learn what type of work he would favor.
The audience was already familiar with Griffin, an unabashed defender of American military and political supremacy who has bragged about being labeled an “unreconstructed cold warrior.” With five master’s degrees and a doctorate in aerospace engineering, he was the chief technology officer for President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (popularly known as Star Wars), which was supposed to shield the United States against a potential Russian attack by ballistic missiles looping over the North Pole. Over the course of his career, he also wrote a book on space vehicle design, ran a technology incubator funded by the C.I.A., directed NASA for four years, and was employed as a senior executive at a handful of aerospace firms.
Griffin was known as a scientific optimist who regularly called for “disruptive innovation” and who prized speed above all. He had repeatedly complained about the Pentagon’s sluggish bureaucracy, which he saw as mired in legacy thinking. “This is a country that produced an atom bomb under the stress of wartime in three years from the day we decided to do it,” he told a congressional panel last year. “This is a country that can do anything we need to do that physics allows. We just need to get on with it.”