Hypersonic missile ‘could hit in 14 mins’

Dominic Giannini |

Hypersonic and counter-hypersonic weapons are crucial to Australia’s defence with a Chinese missile able to strike Australia in under 15 minutes, according to the deputy prime minister. 

Britain, the United States and Australia have agreed to cooperate on hypersonic weapons under the trilateral AUKUS alliance.

Barnaby Joyce says the country needs to build its defences as quickly as possible to counter an increasingly aggressive China, with hypersonic weapons creating an “existential threat” for Australia.

“They can change path, which makes them very hard to detect and even harder to hit,” Mr Joyce told Sky News on Wednesday.

“This gives an existential threat to Australia.

“(In) probably about 14 minutes after they launched they would be able to reach here …  so we have to make sure that we are right at the top of our game.”

The missiles are able to travel 2000 kilometres and five times the speed of sound. 

Any timeframe around when the hypersonic capabilities would be developed and become available are considered “sensitive”, but the vice chief of the defence force says it’s being “pursued with urgency”.

“A significant effort is going into the development of those capabilities”, Vice Admiral David Johnston told a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Vice Admiral Johnston told senators Australian allies are yet to develop hypersonic weapons but that the US had “very high speed weapons”.

“Hypersonics is about the speed of the weapons. There are other very high speed weapons not limited to hypersonics,” he said.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is working to expedite hypersonic weapons systems as America races to keep up with China and Russia.

Russia has recently deployed hypersonic missiles in its invasion of Ukraine.

In a joint statement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden committed to expanding information sharing and deepening cooperation on defence innovation, including hypersonics and counter-hypersonics capabilities.

The US and Australia already have a hypersonic weapon program called SCIFiRE (Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment).

Mr Morrison said the hypersonic missiles formed part of Australia’s long term strategic plan.

“These missiles are one of the fastest developing area of missile technologies,” he said.

“While Australia, together with our allies and partners, have very sophisticated and very advanced form of defences, hypersonics are an area where we are looking to significantly upgrade our capabilities.”

Asked about the hypersonic cooperation under AUKUS, China’s United Nations ambassador Zhang Jun warned against measures that could fuel conflict.

“Anyone who does not want to see the Ukrainian crisis should refrain from doing things which may lead the other parts of the world into a crisis like this,” Mr Zhang said.

“As the Chinese saying goes: ‘If you do not like it, do not impose it against the others’.”


* Hypersonic missiles can travel at more than five times the speed of sound – or 6200 kilometres an hour – and reportedly up to eight times the speed of sound.

* Current missiles have a range of around 2000 kilometres.

* Hypersonic weapons are highly maneuverable and can fly under radar, making them difficult to detect and almost impossible to intercept.

* The US confirmed China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic weapon last year and Russia used a hypersonic missile a fortnight ago in Ukraine.

* The US is developing long-range hypersonic missiles that can strike targets in excess of 2775 kilometres away and will reportedly be capable of speeds of Mach 17 – or almost 21,000km/h.