I’m feeling hypersonic (give me gin and tonic)

Last week something strange happened in the skies above southern Chile.

Residents saw a red flash in the sky, followed by a fireball that travelled swiftly to earth and started a number of fires.

Strange. And stranger still when you consider what the country’s National Geology and Mining Service had to say, after investigating:

“Once in the Dalcahue area, geologists went to the site to examine the area of ​​the supposed impact. They worked at seven points corresponding to the burnt bushes, where they found no remains, vestiges or evidence of a meteorite falling.

Likewise, and as part of the investigation, they interviewed local residents, who said they had not seen the fall of the supposed object or heard noises associated with the fall of a body of this nature.

Preliminarily, professionals are ruling out the fall of a meteorite in this sector and, therefore, that the cause of burning thickets, has corresponded to that situation.” 

That seems to rule out a meteor as the cause. So what happened?

It’s curious a story like that would catch my eye this week. I’ve been thinking about strange happenings in the atmosphere, after reading Eoin Treacy’s latest Frontier Tech Investor on Tuesday.

If you’re a subscriber, you’ll know what I mean. If you don’t have a clue what Frontier Tech Investor is – it takes the work I do in this letter (exploring how technology will change the world, financial markets and your life) even further, with specific stock recommendations in key tech themes Eoin believes are set for big things.

This month’s issue focused primarily on drones. Actually, it started by discussing drones… before morphing into a study on high tech, futuristic warfare in the sky. More on that in a second.

I’m not going to share Eoin’s recommendation here. Advice like that remains behind our paywall, for subscribers only. Given you can get a whole year (12 issues) for £29, I think that’s a pretty reasonable position to take.

But I do want to share Eoin’s thinking with you. It’s pretty… stimulating… stuff.

To hash out his argument quickly for you. Last month’s drone attack on Saudi Arabia is likely just another data point in a rapidly moving trend towards much wider drone warfare. Eoin pointed out that Saudi Arabia has put the Saudi Aramco IPO back on the table. It’s seeking $100bn in hard cash. For what? Drones and other military equipment, according to Eoin.

That’ll likely be a big source of new demand in the drone space. But drones are just the start.

As Eoin put it, a much bigger change could be on the horizon – hypersonic missiles. As he put it in Frontier Tech Investor:

HGVs are launched by an intercontinental ballistic missile. As they fall back to earth, they pick up hypersonic speeds as a result of acceleration due to gravity. They are the technological equivalent of a manoeuvrable meteor and would totally obliterate anything they hit once they make landfall. 

HCMs are similar to what we think of when we look at a cruise missile but they have more sophisticated engines and travel a lot faster. 

Russia currently has the only operational HCM. It is called the “Dagger” or Kh-47M2 and has a reported top speed of Mach 10; roughly 7,672 miles per hour. At that speed it could cover its 1,200 miles range in less than ten minutes. That’s the distance from London to Rome in nine minutes, which leaves very little time to get off a response, much less find an air raid shelter. 

The US has clearly stated it does not have a reliable method to combat this evolving threat and relies instead on its nuclear deterrent to counterbalance the increasing risk from a hypersonic attack. Of course, that does not mean it isn’t looking into it.

There’s no sign that what happened in Chile was a hypersonic weapon. But both stories made me think: perhaps there’s more going on up there than we think.

Eoin certainly does. He arrived in our offices this week (fresh from a transatlantic, non-supersonic flight in from Los Angeles) and confidently told me that some of his social circle on the West Coast are starting to talk about UFOs with increasing fervour.

I assumed this was a joke. But no. He rattled off a few names (I can’t share them with you) of incredibly well connected people who’d contacted him to talk UFOs recently.

He’d been looking into it further. Turns out… there’s more to the story than you’d think. As he explained to Frontier Tech Investor readers:

Against this background I believe it is no coincidence that the US Navy has clearly stated the footage recorded by Navy pilots of unidentified aerial phenomenon, or what the rest of us call unidentified flying objects (UFOs), are real. 

The first video was taken on the USS Nimitz in 2004 but The New York Times published more videos in articles posted in May dating from 2015 and 2017. 

Here is a section from a CNN report last week quoting Navy spokesperson Joe Gradisher.

    Gradisher said the Navy’s transparency about unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP, is largely done to encourage trainees to report “incursions” they spot in the airfield, which threaten pilots’ safety. 

    “This is all about frequent incursions into our training ranges by UAPs,” he said. “Those incursions present a safety hazard to the safe flight of our aviators and the security of our operations.” 

    The public clips capture just a fraction of the frequent incursions Navy training ranges see, he said

I’ve bolded the last line above because it is obviously meant for publicity. Let’s think about this for a moment. What are the vehicles being seen in these videos? 

If they are drones, they are achieving incredible speed and manoeuvrability with no heat signature. That’s not possible if we consider today’s physics. 

Anything moving that quickly becomes subject to thermodynamic heating and would require a propulsion unit putting out significant amounts of energy. Anything travelling that fast leaves a signature like a sonic boom but those have been conspicuously absent from the reports. 

That means they are achieving feats that are impossible based on our knowledge of physics today. As I write this, my mind is on fire with speculation about quantum entanglement and the theories expounded upon in Cixin Liu’s novel The Three-Body Problem but that is all pointless because we have no proof. 

So, who built them and who is piloting them? Nobody knows for sure. 

It is tempting to think they are evidence of aliens but I have to admit that I am a big proponent of Ockham’s razor: “The simplest solution is most likely the right one.” If something is impossible, it is very unlikely to be true. 

Either someone, and these craft only appear to have been seen by US pilots, has advanced technology that is so far ahead of what is possible today as to be unimaginable, or it is fake. 

Former US Senator Harry Reid spearheaded the investigation into the sightings and had this to say:

    “We don’t have a lot explanation for what they are,” he said. “They can go vertically, horizontally at huge air knots. If you have a jet airplane that goes 700 miles an hour – we’ve only got one going that fast – these things it’s estimated are going 3,000 miles per hour. So try that one on.” 

It’s that last figure that caught my attention. Are these hypersonic cruise missiles or some variant there of? That is the closest explanation I can come up with that has some basis in reality but it does not tackle the heat signature problem. 

There is another explanation. We already know that the US is engaged in counter intelligence on a massive scale with the Star Wars programme and broke the USSR by fooling it into spending excessively on an impossible goal of first strike space-based weaponry. 

I can’t help but think a similar strategy is being deployed today in an attempt to keep China and Russia’s geopolitical competition with the US under check. To me at least that seems like the simplest solution.

Whether it’s all a big bluff to convince the Chinese and Russians that the US has near-alien technology, the investment case all leads back to drones and other airborne weaponry. Which of course was the whole point of Eoin’s recommendation: not just to explain a new trend, but to show you how to invest in it.

We’ll leave it there for today. I don’t think I can write about drones, hypersonic missiles and UFOs without opening the floor for you to reply. If you want to get in touch, I’m all ears on nick@southbankresearch.com.

Until tomorrow,


Nick O’Connor,
Publisher, Exponential Investor

Category: Technology

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