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Army launches successful test of hypersonic weapon from Kauai

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U.S. ARMY ILLUSTRATION
This image of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon glide body is taken from the U.S. Army's Environmental Assessment prepared prior to the launch Thursday of the AHW vehicle from Barking Sands on Kauai.
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U.S. ARMY IMAGE
This image of a rocket on a launch pad is from the cover of the U.S. Army's Environmental Assessment prepared prior to the launch Thursday of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon glide vehicle from Barking Sands on Kauai.

The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Army Forces Strategic Command said they conducted the first test flight of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon concept this morning at the Pacific Missile Range on Kauai.

The first-of-its-kind glide vehicle, designed to fly within the earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speed, launched from Kauai at 1:30 this morning to the Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll. The data collected will be used by the Pentagon to model and develop future hypersonic boost-glide capabilities.

Hypersonic speeds are defined as Mach 5 (about 3,600 mph) or higher.

The Pentagon news release did not say how fast the vehicle flew.

Another hypersonic aircraft, the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, or HTV-2, reached Mach 20, or about 13,000 mph, before crashing into the Pacific on Aug. 11.

The Pentagon said the goal of today’s test was to collect data on hypersonic boost-glide technologies and test range performance for long-range atmospheric flight.

A three-stage booster system launched the AHW glide vehicle and successfully deployed it on the desired flight trajectory, officials said. The vehicle flew a non-ballistic trajectory at hypersonic speed to the planned impact location at the Reagan Test Site.  Space, air, sea, and ground platforms collected vehicle performance data during all phases of the flight.

The Army did not release images of the AHW glide vehicle.

The Pentagon has said in the past that the goal of its hypersonic efforts is to develop a technology that could deliver a non-nuclear warhead anywhere in the world within an hour.

In an interview in August, Tom Collina, research director at the Arms Control Association in Washington, said the technology is unconstrained by the New Start, a nuclear arms reduction agreement signed last year by U.S. and Russia, and is unlikely to be confused as a nuclear weapon because its trajectory is unlike the Bell-shaped curve of a ballistic missile.

"Most people perceive this to be a niche capability," he said. "You’re not going to build more than a dozen or two of these things."

 

VIDEO OF AUGUST 2011 FALCON HYPERSONIC TECHNOLOGY VEHICLE 2 TEST

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