The United States is vulnerable to future attack by hypersonic missiles from China and Russia and is falling behind in the technology race to develop both defensive and offensive high-speed maneuvering arms, according to a new Air Force study.

“The People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation are already flight-testing high-speed maneuvering weapons (HSMWs) that may endanger both forward deployed U.S. forces and even the continental United States itself,” an executive summary of the report says.

“These weapons appear to operate in regimes of speed and altitude, with maneuverability that could frustrate existing missile defense constructs and weapon capabilities.”

Hypersonic missiles are ultra-high speed weapons that travel along the edge of the earth’s atmosphere at speeds above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. The missiles also can maneuver to avoid current missile defenses—all of which were developed to hit ballistic missiles with predictable flight paths.

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