The Washington Post

Good luck, everyone

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Regarding the July 20 Politics & the Nation article “Pentagon tests hypersonic missile in growing arms race with China, Russia”:

A missile traveling at more than 3,000 miles per hour covers almost a mile per second. One headed for Baltimore could change course 60 seconds out and then strike Washington, Philadelph­ia or New York in less than two or three minutes. Even with high-speed computers relaying alarms to everyone’s cellphones, nobody is going to be able to take measurable cover in a couple of minutes beyond basements, office desks or hallways. So 100 satellites tracking such machines will only be able to tell the generals where each is striking in real time. Alerting specific target cities to take action? Forget it. Maybe alerting the whole country might work. That would be interestin­g politicall­y. Hypersonic missiles might be defended against in the future but alerting one city will not be feasible. The total action will be over in a matter of an hour or so.

Hypersonic­s fly at low altitudes: Now you hear it, now you don’t. It will be known to anyone under the flight path that one is going by. The sonic booms these will produce will likely blow out windows, if not eardrums, as they are flying so low.

Good luck, everyone.

Jay Sheppard, Laurel

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