According to a report, the Pentagon is working on a new strategy to compete with China and Russia: balloons.
According to Politico, the high-altitude inflatables would be added to the Pentagon’s extensive surveillance network and could eventually be used to track hypersonic weapons.
The concept may sound like science fiction, but Pentagon budget documents show that technology is being transferred from the DoD’s scientific community to the military services.
“High or very high-altitude platforms have a lot of benefit for their endurance on station, maneuverability and also flexibility for multiple payloads,” said Tom Karako, senior fellow for the International Security Program and Missile Defense Project director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Politico reported.
The Pentagon continues to invest in these projects because the balloons could be used for a variety of military missions.
According to budget documents, the Pentagon has spent approximately $3.8 million on balloon projects over the last two years and plans to spend $27.1 million in fiscal year 2023 to continue work on multiple efforts.
Despite the failure of the latest test on Wednesday, the Pentagon is still working on its own hypersonic weapons programme.
The balloons may help track and deter hypersonic weapons being developed by China and Russia, which is a plus for the US.
In August, China surprised the Pentagon by testing a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that narrowly missed its target by about two dozen miles.
In response to the United States’ withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, Russia began ramping up hypersonic weapon development. The Russian government claimed to have launched a hypersonic missile against Ukraine in March, marking its first combat use.
One way the balloons could be useful is to supplement expensive satellites in tracking missiles. According to Politico, the teardrop-shaped balloons collect complex data and navigate using AI algorithms.