Four seconds after launch, the booster rocket of the Army’s new hypersonic weapon failed, triggering its self-destruct mechanism. This was the weapon’s second test, the first one being conducted from Hawaii in November 2011. The Army hasn’t released any details of why the test failed, yet.
“Due to an anomaly, the test was terminated near the launch pad shortly after lift-off to ensure public safety,” stated a Department of Defense press release, adding that an “extensive” investigation into the failure is underway. Although the press release did not go into detail about what happened, an Alaskan radio station said witnesses thought the missile was ‘out of control’ from the time of the launch.
This test took place at the Kodiak Launch Center in Alaska and is part of the Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) development program. CPGS is striving to develop a weapon that is capable of pin-point accuracy and quick response to targets anywhere in the world. The weapon will be non-nuclear and used to disrupt and destroy command-and-control centers.
These weapons are being developed and integrated in the CPGS system for countering A2/AD (anti-access/area-denial) threats being developed by other countries, and although the process has been slow, once operational, CPGS will counter many of the stronger threats the country could face in the future.
This test of the weapon was supposed to launch from Kodiak and impact at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Southern Pacific. The weapon itself doesn’t have an engine, but the missile would have boosted it almost into orbit and it would have glided to the target, more than 3500 miles away, in less than an hour.
The Chinese military is testing their own version of this weapon, the WU-14 hypersonic glide vehicle. China’s second test took place less than three weeks ago and according to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, it was also a failure with the Chinese weapon breaking up soon after launch. The WU-14 is rumored to be capable of speeds of almost 8000 miles per hour.
China’s weapon is being developed to deliver nuclear weapons. Its incredible speed would be instrumental in avoiding counter-measures. With speeds approaching Mach 10, the WU-14 would easily be able to outrun any missile launched against it. New defenses would have to be developed to counter the weapon.
“All missiles launched by the PLA, if there was a military conflict, would be intercepted by the US defense systems before entering the atmosphere,” said Wang Xudong, an advisor to the Chinese government on satellite operations.
Professor Arthur Ding Shu-fan of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies has stated that, “The WU-14 will become China’s global strike weapon that would cause a great threat and challenges to the US.”
In addition to the United States and China, India and Russia are developing similar technology.
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