Today, engineering schools, in full agreement with companies, want people who are efficient in handling various IT tools: Catia, etc. If in fact the latter, at the time they were designed, brought great progress for those who were used to thinking, they only “Taylorized” the real profession by degrading it enormously, leading to the incremental improvement which tomorrow will be the prerogative of artificial intelligence. On the other hand, from my point of view, replacing the Soviet physicists and engineers of the time with AI would absolutely not be possible.

So this is where we are and until our scientists are able to make the equations speak, it seems very unlikely that the West will be able to make hypersonic missiles worthy of the name. What do I mean by that? Not rockets that go to Mach 5, which is the limit between supersonic and hypersonic, but that reach Mach 9 like the Zircon at sea level or 27 like the Avangard at high altitude, while remaining maneuverable .

To reach such a level, it is imperative to return to studies focusing on paper and pencil. Write the equations, try to solve them by hand and understand, when you make approximations, what they correspond to physically and if they are legitimate.

Let’s take one more example. There are so-called phase change fluid loops for cooling parts of, for example, satellites. If we do not carry out, with ad hoc approximations, an expansion limited to order 4 of the Navier-Stokes system, we cannot conceive of such loops. A computer will never be able to achieve this, although excellent engineers in the past have been able to do so.

When we see the low level in mathematics and physics today throughout the Western school structure, we say to ourselves that the light will come from elsewhere. And this is what we are seeing.


Jean-François Geneste has nearly 40 years of experience in the aeronautics, space and defense fields. He was scientific director of the EADS group, now Airbus Group, for 10 years. He was a professor at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow. He is currently the CEO of the startup WARPA which has just been awarded a patent for its infinite specific impulse space propulsion engine.