WASHINGTON — The Pentagon successfully tested a hypersonic glide body in a flight experiment conducted from Hawaii, taking a major step forward to reaching a critical capability where the U.S. trails China and Russia.
“This is a significant milestone for our number one priority, long-range precision fires, in a true testament to the Army’s prepared to fight today across a range of threats, from adversarial actors to strands of a pandemic,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told Pentagon reporters Friday.
The joint Army-Navy test from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii, occurred Thursday. The launch of the common hypersonic glide body (C-HGB), which flew at hypersonic speed to a designated impact point, was announced Friday.
A hypersonic weapon travels at Mach 5 or higher, which is at least five times faster than the speed of sound. They are highly maneuverable and operate at varying altitudes, offering the potential to strike targets hundreds and even thousands of miles away in a matter of minutes to defeat, in theory, a wide range of high-value targets.
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) described the test as “a major milestone towards the department’s goal of fielding hypersonic warfighting capabilities in the early- to mid-2020s” in an email to Pentagon reporters.
“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 Adm. Johnny R. Wolfe, Director, Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs, which is the lead designer for the C-HGB,” said in the news release.
“In this test we put additional stresses on the system and it was able to handle them all,” he said. “Today we validated our design and are now ready to move to the next phase towards fielding a hypersonic strike capability.”
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 closely 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 Pentagon said.