The Department of Defense recently announced plans to test-fire a hypervelocity projectile or HVP that will reach speeds of Mach 6 (4,600 mph) with the ability to hit targets up to 100 miles away.
In development for more than a decade, it was initially developed for use with the infamous railgun. However, with that weapon system facing cost and application issues, the new HVP could be fired from 155 mm howitzers or the deck guns found on Navy destroyers and cruisers.
Described as a defensive weapon, some analysts think it could be a low-cost alternative to the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors that run about $3 million per round. The new HVPs cost closer to $85,000 each.
So, if the tests go well, these cost savings would allow the U.S. to support more defensive positions around the globe.
In addition to the cost savings, these rounds could also offer a tactical advantage. While the Patriots work well against ballistic missiles, the HVP seems to track cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons more effectively - both of which have seen increased use by China and Russia.
Also worth noting is that this decision seems to pit two large U.S. aerospace manufacturers in an interesting, yet competitive situation. BAE Systems supplies these HVPs, and Lockheed Martin makes the Patriot interceptors.