US military conducts test launch of hypersonic experiments for weapons development

The US military conducted a successful test launch of a rocket with experiments for hypersonic weapons development at the Wallops Flight Test Facility in Virginia Wednesday.

The rocket carried 11 different experiments designed to test and collect data for hypersonic weapons research to support the joint Army-Navy program, the Navy said.

This was the second test carried out under the program focused on developing both sea and land-based hypersonic capabilities. The first test was conducted in October 2021.

In this test, a sounding rocket was fired from the launchpad, carrying out different experiments to gather data and collect information on components of hypersonic missiles, including heat-resistant materials and high-end electronics.

“The launch today went extremely well,” said Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe, the director of Strategic Systems Programs who oversaw the test. “As a matter of fact, we’ve just gotten done looking through our key observables, and every piece of data that we wanted to collect – at least preliminarily – has shown that we collected all that data.”

A second rocket is scheduled for launch on Thursday and will carry out an additional 13 experiments designed to inform hypersonic weapons development, the Navy said.

The data collected from these tests will help in the development of the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike hypersonic system and the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon. The two programs will both use the Common Hypersonic Glide Body, a projectile carried atop a booster rocket that coasts towards its target at speeds greater than Mach 5.

Hypersonic weapons travel at speeds greater than Mach 5, or approximately 4,000 miles per hour, making them difficult to detect and intercept in time. The missiles can also maneuver and vary altitude, allowing them to evade missile defense systems.

The Pentagon has made the development of hypersonic weapons one of its top priorities after China conducted successful hypersonic launches last year and Russia has begun to use hypersonic missiles in its war in Ukraine.

After China tested a hypersonic weapon in 2021, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley called the test “a very significant technological event” that is just one element of China’s military capabilities.

“The Chinese military capabilities are much greater than that” single test, Milley said in October 2021. “They’re expanding rapidly in space, in cyber and then in the traditional domains of land, sea and air.”

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