Late this past year, the Army fielded all the ground support equipment it needs for its first hypersonic missile unit.

That’s a late-stage step to fielding the revolutionary weapon in mid-2023. What happens in 2022 will decide the Long Range Hypersonic Weapon program’s fate.

Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood told Army Times sister publication Defense News in November that the first Army hypersonic missile unit will be based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Soldiers there were already developing tactics, techniques and procedures to employ the weapon system at that time, Thurgood said.

Those soldiers are practicing with the system but without live rounds — for now.

By definition, hypersonic missiles travel at a speed of about Mach 5 or higher, meaning one mile per second, which is five times the speed of sound.

The missile design allows for more maneuverability to avoid missile defense systems. The Russian and Chinese militaries have been publicly claiming hypersonic advancements that could defeat U.S. defense systems.

Much of the work is similar in certain steps to using the existing Terminal High Altitude Area Defense launchers and Patriot missile systems, Thurgood previously told Army Times.

The Army looks to be the first service that will field a hypersonic weapon as the Navy and Air Force are following closely behind with their own versions.

Thurgood expects the missile to be delivered by 2023.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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