US Army tests hypersonic weapon over the Pacific

The Army conducted its first flight test of a new weapon capable of travelling five times the speed of sound.

The Army launched the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon from the military's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai at about 1:30am on Thursday. The weapon's ‘glide vehicle’ reached Kwajalein Atoll some 3,700km away in less than half an hour, said Lt Col Melinda Morgan, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Earlier this year, the Congressional Research Service said in a report the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon is part of the military's programme to develop ‘prompt global strike’ weapons that would allow the US to strike targets anywhere in the world with conventional weapons in as little as an hour.

The Air Force and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, are developing a similar vehicle. The Pentagon said the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, or AHW, vehicle is designed to fly long ranges within the earth's atmosphere at speeds that are at least five times the speed of sound.

The objective of yesterday's test was to collect data on technologies that boost the hypersonic vehicle and allow it to glide. The Army was also testing how the vehicle performed in long-range flight.

The Congressional Research Service report said the AHW would be able to manoeuvre to avoid flying over third party nations as it approached its target. The weapon would use a precision guidance system to home in on the target, it said.

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