Russia could test its first hypersonic missile as early as 2020 as part of a government program to develop the new technology, a Russian defense industry official said.
The Tactical Missiles Corporation, which produces many of Russia's guided missile systems for the Defense Ministry, is working with dozens of companies to implement a development program for a hypersonic missile, the corporation's CEO, Boris Obnosov, said on Friday at the KADEX-2014 arms exhibition in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Hypersonic missiles are the next step in missile technology. Traveling at five times the speed of sound, a they are capable of delivering a warhead to its target faster than any other type of missile — earning them the moniker "global prompt strike" weapons among defense officials.
These weapons are currently under development in China, the United States, India, and France, Obnosov said, before warning that if Russia falls behind now, it won't be able to catch up.
Obnosov said that the Tactical Missiles Corporation has finalized nearly all of its contracts for the supply of equipment to the Defense Ministry in 2014, and added that his company anticipates the signing of several more contracts by the end of the year.
"There are a number of products that we expect to complete testing on. I think that by October we will have completed them and then we will move on to signing contracts [for their delivery]," Obsonov said.
Russia has implemented an ambitious defense industry and military modernization program aimed at ensuring that Russia's military remains cutting edge as warfare gets ever more advanced. The government has pledged $700 billion for the program through 2020. Russian defense expenditures in the period from 2014 to 2016 have increased 60 percent.