The U.S. on Thursday conducted a successful flight test of prototype of a new weapon, a "glide vehicle," that travels five times faster than sound. The Advanced Hypersonic Weapon was launched from the U.S. Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.
According to AP, Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, Pentagon spokeswoman, said the missile was launched at about 11:30 a.m. from Hawaii. Daily Mail reports the weapon glided westwards through the upper atmosphere over the Pacific and reached Kwajalein Atoll in Marshall Islands, about 2,500 miles away, in less than half an hour.
The test follows U.S. Air Force announcement that it has taken delivery of eight 15-ton bombs called Massive Ordnance Penetrator "buster bombs" that can blow 200ft of concrete.
FoxNews reports that the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon flies at "a relatively flat trajectory within the atmosphere, rather than soaring up toward space like a ballistic missile and eventually coming back down."
The U.S. Congressional Research Service said, in a report released early in the year, that the Advanced Hypersonic weapon is part of U.S. program to develop "prompt global strike" weapons that can hit any target in the world within an hour. The report said the U.S. Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) were also developing similar "prompt global strike" vehicles.
FoxNews reports that an unmanned aircraft that can travel 20 times the speed of sound was also due for test flight on Wednesday. Wednesday's test followed up on previous successful tests by DARPA in April 2010 and August 2011.
According to information released by Pentagon, an Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) is designed for hitting long range targets within the earth's atmosphere at speeds at least five times the speed of sound (3,805 mph or 6,124 kph, at sea level). Thursday's test was designed to help developers of hypersonic weapons collect data about aerodynamics, navigation, guidance, control performance, thermal protection technologies and overall performance of the prototype in long range flight.
The Congressional Research Service report said that since an Advanced Hypersonic Weapon does not soar into space like ballistic missiles, it is equipped with precision guidance system that allows it to avoid flying over other countries as it homes in on its target.
Analysts say the Chinese are observing the U.S. show of military power closely. The tests are part of U.S. government effort to establish a presence in the Pacific to check Chinese military ambitions in the region.