Australia’s push into developing hypersonic missiles with its AUKUS allies could create instability in the region, according to Indonesia’s ambassador to Australia.
Siswo Pramono called the progress an “arms race” in an interview with The Guardian, expressing concerns it could stifle economic progress as the research is “very expensive”.
“The point is that please have more dialogue to prevent the very expensive hypersonic arms race in the region,” he said.
In April it was announced that the UK, along with Australia and the US, would be developing hypersonic missiles that could be launched from aircraft such as the Super Hornet and F-35.
A statement on behalf of the then leaders of the three countries said their cooperation increased in response to Russia’s “unprovoked, unjustified and unlawful invasion of Ukraine.”
Australia previously only worked with the US to develop the missiles as part of what is known as the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE).
While hypersonic technology — defined as flying at least five times the speed of sound — is nothing new, countries are currently engaged in an arms race to develop the next generation of missiles that are so maneuverable in the air that they cannot be intercepted or detected.
Currently, there are two main ways maneuverable hypersonic vehicles and missiles could work.
The first, known as a hypersonic cruise missile, would see a rocket blast at Mach 5 before using an air-breathing engine or scramjet to maintain its momentum.
The second, known as the Glider Vehicle, sees a missile blast in the sky before launching a separate hypersonic missile that has built up enough speed to propel itself at its own speed. The two-stage system means it can glide in the upper atmosphere with enough atmosphere to maintain lift but without creating too much drag.
In July, Australian Aviation reported how carbon fiber composites maker Quickstep would be working with Defense to try to identify the materials needed to build the next generation of hypersonic devices.
When objects fly so fast, the friction created can raise temperatures to over 1,000 degrees. Quickstep will therefore work with UNSW on the Hype-X project to identify and test materials that can withstand extreme conditions.
Initially, research will focus on the applicability of existing materials before exploring new materials and manufacturing processes to fill performance gaps.
Quickstep is expected to receive commercialization rights to newly developed intellectual property (IP), with Defense retaining IP ownership.