American hypersonic missile capabilities are "not as advanced" as those of China or Russia, Space Force General David Thompson said Saturday at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, signaling that the U.S. is behind in developing the newest and most cutting-edge weaponry.
Thompson admitted during an interview that the U.S. lagging behind the other two countries is potentially dangerous for national security.
"We have catching up to do very quickly, the Chinese have an incredible hypersonic program," he said. "It's a very concerning development ... it greatly complicates the strategic warning problem."
The news comes after China tested a missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads that circled the globe over the summer. The launch surprised U.S. officials. Russia also test fired a missile in the arctic on Nov. 18, according to a state-run media outlet in the country.
The U.S. failed its own hypersonic missile tests in October, according to CNN.
According to a memo the Congressional Research Service (CRS) provided for U.S. Congress on Oct. 19, the U.S. is lagging behind China and Russia because "most U.S. hypersonic weapons, in contrast to those in Russia and China, are not being designed for use with a nuclear warhead."
"As a result, U.S. hypersonic weapons will likely require greater accuracy and will be more technically challenging to develop than nuclear-armed Chinese and Russian systems," the CRS wrote.
For the fiscal year running through 2022, the U.S. is preparing to spend $3.8 billion on hypersonic missiles, which are defined as weapons that fly at the speed of Mach 5 or more, the memo said.
During his interview, Thompson said hypersonic missiles are "changing the game" for national defense and security, comparing their use to a snowball fight. Typically, you can predict where a snowball is when it's thrown. Yet, if the projectile is thrown in another direction, it's harder to detect — but it's still going to hit you.
"That's what a hyperglide vehicle does," he said, referring to another type of hypersonic missile. "You no longer have that predictability. So every launch of a certain type, regardless of where it's headed, now ha the potential to be a threat."