The Pentagon says testing on an Air Force hypersonic weapon is ready to move into the next phase after a second successful launch this week off the coast of California.
The development of a hypersonic weapon has been a priority for the Pentagon in a race with Russia and China, which are believed to be ahead in the development of a new generation of super-fast missiles which threaten to overwhelm current missile defense systems. Past test results of a U.S. hypersonic weapon have been mixed, however.
A successful test of a ground-based hypersonic weapon system took place at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, officials with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said Wednesday. The AGM-183A weapon system reached hypersonic speeds — more than five times the speed of sound — after it was launched from a B-52 bomber, officials said.
“This was another important milestone for the Air Force’s first air-launched hypersonic weapon. The test successfully demonstrated booster performance expanding the operational envelope,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, program executive officer of the service’s Armament Directorate.
The successful flight marks the end of the booster test series and means the service will move forward to the next round of testing later in the year, Air Force officials said.
DARPA’s Operational Fires (OpFires) system achieved the first-ever use of a standard military logistics truck as a medium-range missile launcher. The test also used an Army artillery fire control system already in the military inventory to initiate the test mission, officials said.
It would eliminate the need for a launcher system built specifically for a ground-based hypersonic weapon, officials with DARPA said.