Pentagon tests long-range hypersonic weapon
- 18 November 2011
- From the section US & Canada
The US has test-fired a new weapon which can travel at five times the speed of sound, the Pentagon says.
The missile was launched from Hawaii and reached its target on a Pacific atoll 2,300 miles (3,700km) away in less than half an hour.
The Advanced Hypersonic Weapon is part of a programme to build new high-speed long-range missiles.
Its aim is to allow the US military to strike targets anywhere in the world within an hour.
A statement from the Pentagon said the weapon had been launched using a three-stage booster system, which had successfully sent it into the upper atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
It reached hypersonic speeds before hitting its target on Kwajalein atoll, part of the Marshall Islands.
The term hypersonic is defined as exceeding Mach 5 - five times the speed of sound, or 3,700 mph (6,000km/h).
"The objective of the test is to collect data on hypersonic boost-glide technologies and test range performance for long-range atmospheric flight," said the Pentagon statement.
The US defence department gave no details of the top speed achieved by the weapon.
However, defence analysts Global Security.org say the aim of the programme is to be able to strike a target 3,700 miles (6,000km) away in 35 minutes, with an accuracy of 10m.
They say the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon is one of a number of alternatives the Pentagon is considering to allow a conventional weapon to strike "fleeting targets around the globe faster than today's munitions".
Earlier this year a congressional report said the programme was part of a project to develop a "prompt global strike" system that can deliver long-range weapons anywhere in the world while avoiding flying over third-party nations.