US successfully flight tests hypersonic weapon components
Image credit: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
The Pentagon has said the US Navy and Army have carried out a successful test launch of a rocket linked to the development of hypersonic weapons.
R&D laboratory Sandia National Laboratories tested the hypersonic weapon components from Nasa’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Wednesday 26 October.
According to a statement from the Navy, the test flight evaluated hypersonic weapon communications and navigation equipment and advanced materials that can withstand the heat in a “realistic hypersonic environment”.
In this test, experts fired a sounding rocket from the launch pad and conducted various experiments to gather data and learn more about the high-tech electronics and heat-resistant materials used in hypersonic missile components.
“The launch today went extremely well,” said Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe, the director of strategic systems programmes, who oversaw the test. “We’ve just gotten done looking through our key observables, and every piece of data we wanted to collect – at least preliminarily – has shown that we collected all that data.”
Hypersonic glide vehicles are launched from a rocket in the upper atmosphere before gliding to a target at speeds of over five times the speed of sound, or about 3,853 miles (6,200km) per hour.
The US and its global rivals are quickening their pace to build hypersonic weapons - the next generation of arms that rob adversaries of reaction time and traditional defeat mechanisms.
To speed the development, the Pentagon launched these experiments and prototypes using a sounding rocket, a smaller and therefore more affordable test vehicle, to fill a critical gap between ground testing and full-system flight testing.
Wednesday’s test should validate future aspects of the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) and the Army's Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), representatives at the Pentagon said.
Glide bodies differ from their air-breathing hypersonic weapon cousins, which use scramjet engine technology and the vehicle’s high speed to compress incoming air before combustion to enable sustained flight at hypersonic speeds.
Companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Technologies Corp are also working to develop US hypersonic weapon capability.
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