DoD research chief Heidi Shyu, in a possibly unintentional play on words, said on Oct. 18 that hypersonic weapons are just one “arrow” in the Pentagon’s quiver against high technology adversaries–China and Russia–while Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) said that he believes that the United States needs to achieve “hypersonic parity” with China.

“It’s important to understand that we have a portfolio approach,” Shyu said during The Hill‘s hypersonics virtual forum sponsored by Raytheon Technologies [RTX]. “We look at targets of interest to us…to develop a very thorough simulation to figure out what is the best arrow against this particular target. It’s a full complement of systems that we have to go after a specific target. It isn’t just one particular weapons system.”

Shyu’s comments echo those of U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall who said last month that hypersonics are not “a magic solution to our problems” (Defense Daily, Sept. 22).

“In fact, it’s difficult with hypersonics to engage some of the moving targets we want to engage, but they have a place in our inventory, and we’re gonna get them there,” Kendall said. “We’re not trying to duplicate or keep up with the Chinese and mirror image what they’re doing. We’re trying to do what we need for our objectives militarily.”

Kendall has said that air-breathing hypersonic missile designs, such as the future Raytheon Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM), using scramjet engines, have shown more promise thus far for the U.S. than hypersonic glide vehicles, like the Lockheed Martin [LMT] AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), a prototype of which has had two booster flights this year after three aborted attempts last year.

Because of the recent booster flight tests, the Air Force plans to conduct all-up-round testing this year of ARRW, which, once fielded, is to destroy high-value, time-sensitive targets and enable rapid response strikes against heavily defended land targets.

On Sept. 22, the Air Force awarded Raytheon Missiles and Defense in Tucson, Ariz., a $985 million contract for HACM. Raytheon beat out Lockheed Martin and Boeing [BA] for the award.

During The Hill‘s Oct. 18 virtual forum, Lamborn, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committe’s (HASC) strategic forces panel, said that hypersonics are his “A number one priority.”

Lamborn said that hypersonics will “absolutely” get more attention, if he becomes chairman of the HASC strategic forces panel in the next session of Congress.

In addition to doubts on the overall utility of hypersonic weapons, some Democrats have raised questions about the high cost of such weapons.

“If it’s just money they’re concerned about–I think it’s not really what their priority is, but if money is what they’re concerned about, it’ll cost a lot more, if we get way behind, and we start getting threats and outmaneuvered on the world stage by countries like China,” Lamborn said. “We don’t want that kind of force in the world dominating world events. It’s gonna cost a lot more and be a lot more perilous and negative for the world, if they have their way, and we can’t match them.”

“I think what we need is hypersonic parity,” he said. “We need to have an equal ability to produce the technology. We’ll worry about the numbers later, but to have the qualitative parity, where we can match what they do. Rather than being destabilizing, I think that that’s the most stabilizing thing, if we have parity.”

The House version of the fiscal 2023 defense authorization bill would create a National Hypersonics Initiative to accelerate the development and fielding of hypersonic systems.

The report on the bill noted “a limited industrial base and workforce with the requisite knowledge and infrastructure to complete development, testing, production, and deployment of these weapon systems.”