Several countries are trying to develop missiles that can travel at speeds of Mach 5 and this is upsetting the global power balance. Such missiles add to the already severe challenge of avoiding the arms race and also create new challenges.
The development of such hypersonic weapons can present two challenges. Such missile can penetrate all defenses made for the current missiles at speeds of Mach 5 and higher. The second challenge is that, if fired, the missile would only give a few seconds to make a decision, and countries would be forced to make an abrupt decision. Current missiles can pose these challenges as well, but hypersonic missiles would have increase capability.
USA, China, and Russia are moving at a fast speed to develop such weapons. China has seen a major development recently. Countries in Europe including France, India, Japan, and Australia are also working to develop this technology. But, the question is, how will they avoid the consequences?
To control the arms race and avoid a severe consequence, two approaches can be adopted i.e. unilateral controls to inhibit proliferation and bilateral or multilateral arms control. If all parties agree to the first approach, it can limit the forces. The second approach can limit forces if all the potential exporters can sign an agreement.
Strategic talks related to arms control by countries like the USA and Russia have hypersonic missiles on the proposed agenda. But, it’s still not clear whether or not these fourth-generation missiles would be subjected to any limitations.
Other approaches can be adopted too, but they will also include countries other than the USA, Russia, and China. There are other approaches too that can prevent other nations from acquiring such weapons. China would not want India or Japan to acquire these missiles and Russia would not want to see Japan or other countries acquiring the hypersonic weapons.
But, how such an approach can work? It certainly can, as the hypersonic technology is not easy to apply in practice. There are not many countries other than the USA, Russia, and China that would be able to acquire these weapons and apply them successfully.