Trump keeps confusing the name of new hard-to-kill missiles the US military is working on with a toothbrush

President Donald Trump. Evan Vucci/AP
  • Amid recent attacks on his Democratic opponent for verbal gaffes, President Donald Trump has repeatedly messed up the name of a type of weapon the US is developing.
  • At three separate political events in just four days, Trump referred to “hypersonic” weapons as “hydrosonic” missiles, confusing a missile with a toothbrush.
  • Trump sometimes refers to the “hydrosonic missile” as the “super duper missile,” a new weapon about which he has repeatedly provided conflicting information.
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In recent days, President Donald Trump has repeatedly screwed up the name of a type of missile the US is currently working to develop, confusing it with a toothbrush.

“We have the hydrosonic missiles you used to hear about,”Trump said in Ocala, Florida, last Friday. “We now have hydrosonic missiles. We have the greatest military ever.”

In Muskegon, Michigan, on Saturday, Trump touted what he calls the “super duper missile.” (In September, he said he calls them “super duper missiles” because that is easier to understand than “hydrosonic.”)

“They go very fast. Hydrosonic,” he said. “Super dupers. They go five to seven times faster than the fastest missile in the world. They go so fast you can’t do anything.”

In Prescott, Arizona, on Monday, he claimed that the US is the envy of both Russia and China.

“We have hydrosonic missiles,” the president said, telling a crowd that “they go seven times faster than a normal missile. We have the best hydrosonic in the world.”

‘Hypersonic missiles’

A common hypersonic glide body (C-HGB) launches from Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii, at approximately 10:30 p.m. local time, March 19, 2020, during a Department of Defence flight experiment.
A common hypersonic glide body launches during a flight test at Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii, March 19, 2020. US Navy

Trump appears to be talking about hypersonic missiles, but he keeps confusing the name with that of a kind of electric toothbrush made by Curaprox, the top hits if you Google “hydrosonic.” These mistakes come as Trump has repeatedly mocked his Democratic opponent Joe Biden for various verbal slips.

He first boasted about the “super duper missile” in May. Then in June, the president mentioned the weapon several times, referring to it as a “hypersonic missile,” “super duper,” and “hydrosonic missile” at different events. Each time, he claimed that the weapon was “17 times faster” than the fastest missile in the world.

In July, a senior defence official told CNN that Trump’s “super duper missile” is a reference to the hypersonic glide body that the Pentagon successfully tested in March. The glide body, which will be used to develop future hypersonic weaponry, flew at around 17 times the speed of sound, which is very different from being 17 times faster than the fastest missile.

Trump has since changed the speed to five to seven times that of a “normal missile,” perhaps a reference to slower cruise missiles rather than ballistic missiles, which can hit speeds as high as Mach 23.

While the president claims that the US now has hypersonic missiles, the US has not yet fielded one. The Air Force has made progress on the AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon, and the Army and Navy are currently working together to develop hypersonic missiles that could be fielded in a few years.

And, despite Trump’s emphasis on their speed, hypersonic missiles are not a serious threat simply because of how fast they can fly. These weapons have unpredictable flight paths, so they are very difficult for traditional air- and missile-defence systems to intercept.

The inability to defend against them is one reason hypersonic missiles are a key area of competition among the three great powers. The US is not alone in its development of hypersonic weapons. Both Russia and China are developing their own hypersonic weapons, which are in various stages of testing and fielding.

As for the president’s oft-touted “hydrosonic missile,” Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert with the Federation for American Scientists, told Insider that “it only exists inside Trump’s head.”