- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2020

The U.S. military successfully tested a groundbreaking hypersonic weapon in Hawaii this week, Pentagon officials said Friday in the latest sign that America may be catching up to its global rivals in development and fielding of the 21st-century technology.

Officials said the Army and Navy jointly tested the hypersonic glide body late Thursday night at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai. Hypersonic weapons fly at speeds at least five times the speed of sound — or Mach 5 — and are widely viewed as a game-changing military technology.

But for years specialists and military insiders have warned the U.S. has fallen behind its chief competitors, China and Russia, in the development of the weapons. Catching up and ensuring the U.S. is on par with its foes, and has the capability to defend against hypersonics in the event enemies deploy them, has become a top priority inside the Pentagon.

Officials said Thursday’s test saw the weapon fly at “hypersonic speed” and successfully hit its target.

“In this test, we put additional stresses on the system and it was able to handle them all, due to the phenomenal expertise of our top-notch team of individuals from across government, industry and academia,” said Vice Adm. Johnny R. Wolfe, director of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs. “Today we validated our design and are now ready to move to the next phase towards fielding a hypersonic strike capability.”



The goal, officials said, is to fully field hypersonic weapons capabilities by the middle of this decade.

In addition to the test itself, the Pentagon said its Missile Defense Agency “monitored and gathered tracking data from the flight experiment that will inform its ongoing development of systems designed to defend against adversary hypersonic weapons.”

Developing those defensive systems is crucial for U.S. national security. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for example, has boasted that his country already has hypersonic weapons that can evade any American missile defense capabilities.

The test of the common hypersonic glide body, or C-HGB, marks a major breakthrough for the military.

“This test was a critical step in rapidly delivering operational hypersonic capabilities to our warfighters in support of the National Defense Strategy,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, director of hypersonics, directed energy, space and rapid acquisition, whose office is leading the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon program and joint C-HGB production. “We successfully executed a mission consistent with how we can apply this capability in the future. The joint team did a tremendous job in executing this test, and we will continue to move aggressively to get prototypes to the field.”

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