• The flight experiment was conducted from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii. (US DOD)
    The flight experiment was conducted from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii. (US DOD)

The US Department of Defense successfully tested a hypersonic glide body in a flight experiment conducted from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii on March 19 at approximately 10:30 p.m. local time.

The US Navy and US Army jointly executed the launch of a common hypersonic glide body (C-HGB), which flew at hypersonic speed to a designated impact point. Concurrently, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) monitored and gathered tracking data from the flight experiment that will inform its ongoing development of systems designed to defend against hypersonic weapons.

The C-HGB – when fully fielded – will comprise the weapon's conventional warhead, guidance system, cabling, and thermal protection shield. The Navy and Army are working with industry to develop the C-HGB with Navy as the lead designer, and Army as the lead for production. Each service will use the C-HGB, while developing individual weapon systems and launchers tailored for launch from sea or land.

The event is a major milestone towards Washington's goal of fielding hypersonic warfighting capabilities in the early to mid-2020s.

"This test builds on the success we had with Flight Experiment 1 in October 2017, in which our C-HGB achieved sustained hypersonic glide at our target distances," Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe, Director, Navy's Strategic Systems Programs (lead designer for the C-HGB) said. "In this test we put additional stresses on the system and it was able to handle them all, due to the phenomenal expertise of our top notch team of individuals from across government, industry and academia.

"Today we validated our design and are now ready to move to the next phase towards fielding a hypersonic strike capability."

Hypersonic weapons, capable of flying at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), are highly maneuverable and operate at varying altitudes. They could provide militaries with an ability to strike targets hundreds and even thousands of miles away in a matter of minutes. Delivering hypersonic weapons is one of the US DoD's highest technical research and engineering priorities.

"This test was a critical step in rapidly delivering operational hypersonic capabilities to our warfighters in support of the National Defense Strategy," US Army LTG L. Neil Thurgood, Director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition, said. "We successfully executed a mission consistent with how we can apply this capability in the future. The joint team did a tremendous job in executing this test, and we will continue to move aggressively to get prototypes to the field."

"Hypersonic systems deliver transformational warfighting capability," Mike White, Assistant Director, Hypersonics, OUSD Research and Engineering (Modernization), said. "The glide body tested today is now ready for transition to Army and Navy weapon system development efforts and is one of several applications of hypersonic technology underway across the Department."

More on hypersonic missiles and their operational strengths and weaknesses is available here.


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