November 22, 2011 Agence France-Presse & Al Jazeera
The Pentagon has successfully tested a "flying bomb" that will give military planners the ability to strike targets anywhere in the world in less than a hour. The "Advanced Hypersonic Weapon" can travel at speeds that could exceed Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound) giving the Pentagon the unrivaled ability to strike targets anywhere on Earth within minutes. The question remains: why on Earth does the Pentagon need such a threatening and provocative weapon?
WASHINGTON (November 18, 2011) -- The Pentagon on Thursday held a successful test flight of a flying bomb that travels faster than the speed of sound and will give military planners the ability to strike targets anywhere in the world in less than a hour.
Launched by rocket from Hawaii at 1130 GMT, the "Advanced Hypersonic Weapon," or AHW, glided through the upper atmosphere over the Pacific "at hypersonic speed" before hitting its target on the Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands, a Pentagon statement said.
Kwajalein is about 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) southwest of Hawaii. The Pentagon did not say what top speeds were reached by the vehicle, which unlike a ballistic missile is maneuverable.
Scientists classify hypersonic speeds as those that exceed Mach 5 -- or five times the speed of sound -- 3,728 miles (6,000 kilometers) an hour.
The test aimed to gather data on "aerodynamics, navigation, guidance and control, and thermal protection technologies," said Lieutenant Colonel Melinda Morgan, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
The US Army's AHW project is part of the "Prompt Global Strike" program which seeks to give the US military the means to deliver conventional weapons anywhere in the world within an hour.
On August 11, the Pentagon test flew another hypersonic glider dubbed HTV-2, which is capable of flying 27,000 kilometers per hour, but it was a failure.
The AHW's range is less than that of the HTV-2, the Congressional Research Service said in a report, without providing specifics.
The Pentagon has invested 239.9 million dollars in the Global Strike program this year, including 69 million for the flying bomb tested Thursday, CRS said.
Copyright 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.
Pentagon Loses Contact with Hypersonic Plane Al Jazeera
(August 12, 2011) -- The unmanned experimental aircraft is designed to glide down from the upper atmosphere at 20 times the speed of sound.
An unmanned experimental aircraft designed as a global bomber prototype, capable of gliding down from the upper atmosphere at 20 times the speed of sound, has lost contact with ground control on its second test flight, a Pentagon agency said.
The Falcon HTV-2 was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on a rocket and successfully separated from the launch vehicle, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) reported.
The arrowhead-shaped plane was expected to separate from the rocket near the peak of its ascent and glide back to earth, reaching hypersonic speed before rolling and plunging into the Pacific ocean, according to a test diagram posted online.
The hypersonic plane, which is supposed to travel at Mach 20, or 21,000 kph, could potentially provide the US military with a platform for striking targets anywhere on the planet within minutes using conventional weapons.
Philip Ewing, the editor of online journal DOD Buzz told Al Jazeera that "the Pentagon has, in past decade or so, wanted to have something it calls 'prompt global strike' with the ability to strike a target anywhere in the world within an hour.
"It is possible that the Pentagon has learned some valuable lessons from the crash, especially in dealing with something this fast at that kind of altitude," Ewing said, adding " the US would most likely say that mistakes like this must be when developing new forms of technology like this and that today's incident would inform other projects in the future."
Global Strike Potential
Such a weapon, still in development, is part of what the US Air Force has dubbed "prompt global strike" capability.
"The ultimate goal is a capability that can reach anywhere in the world in less than an hour," DARPA said on its website.
About 10 minutes after the flight began on Thursday, DARPA tweeted that the mission was "on track, entering glide phase." But about 26 minutes later, DARPA tweeted that its monitoring stations had lost contact with the glider.
"Downrange assets did not reacquire tracking or telemetry," DARPA tweeted about an hour later. "HTV-2 has an autonomous flight termination capacity."
The loss of communications in the final stages of the test flight was a failure for the agency. During the initial flight test in April, researchers lost contact with the vehicle about nine minutes into the flight.
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