US holds three ‘successful’ test rocket launches for hypersonic weapons program

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The US Navy and Army held three “successful” tests on hypersonic weapon component prototypes on Wednesday that will inform the development of new weapons, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

The Sandia National Laboratory ran the tests from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia which should “inform the development of the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) and the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) offensive hypersonic strike capability.”

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The Pentagon said the test comprised of three precision sounding rocket launches containing hypersonic experiments and “demonstrated advanced hypersonic technologies, capabilities, and prototype systems in a realistic operating environment.”

“This test is a vital step in the development of a Navy-designed common hypersonic missile, consisting of a Common Hypersonic Glide Body (CHGB) and booster, which will be fielded by both the Navy and Army with individual weapon systems and launchers tailored for launch from sea or land… The Navy and Army will continue to work in close collaboration to leverage joint testing opportunities,” the statement said.

The Navy and Army will conduct a flight test of the common hypersonic missile in fiscal 2022, which started on October 1.

Hypersonic missiles, like traditional ballistic missiles, can fly more than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5). But they are more maneuverable than their ballistic counterparts and only need a low trajectory in the atmosphere, making them harder to defend against.

The Pentagon’s hypersonic test comes days after the US expressed concern over the Financial Times report which said that China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August.

China denied the report saying instead it was a routine spacecraft check.

The Financial Times, quoting five unnamed sources familiar with the matter, reported last Saturday that China launched a hypersonic missile that completed a circuit around the planet before landing, missing its target.

The Pentagon had said earlier in the month that wanted defense contractors to cut the ultimate cost of hypersoinc weapons because they cost tens of millions per unit.

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