On the heels of reports that China had successfully completed a second ultra-high-speed missile flight test, the Defense Department announced on Aug. 25 that it had aborted a test of its own hypersonic weapon.
The military is investigating the “anomaly” responsible for the test failure, but analysts told National Defense that the incident was not a major setback for the program.
“It’s a glitch. These are weapons that operate under fantastic stresses,” said Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center. “Failure is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if data can be gathered so that you learn from your mistake.”
“These weapons are traveling at such fantastic speeds and they are required to be capable of such accuracy that it is simply going to require an extensive development program to achieve a point where they can be considered ready for the field,” he added.
The Aug. 25 test of the advanced hypersonic weapon was aborted because of an unspecified flight anomaly, according to a Defense Department news release. “The test was terminated near the launch pad shortly after liftoff to ensure public safety. There were no injuries to any personnel,” the release read.
Testers made the decision to destroy the rocket within four seconds of its launch at the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska, said Maureen Schumann, a Pentagon spokeswoman. She was not able to provide additional information on what the anomaly was or how it was detected.
The advanced hypersonic weapon is just one of the technologies under development in the conventional prompt global strike program, she said. The goal is to create a menu of precision strike options that would be able to hit anywhere in the world in under an hour.
U.S. program officials are conducting an investigation to determine the cause of this Monday’s test failure, said Schumann. The investigation will likely take “weeks or months” to finish and will inform future tests and scheduling.
The August test was the second flight of the advanced hypersonic weapon, Schumann said. “The objective of the test was to develop and demonstrate hypersonic boost glide enabling technologies and collect data on flight vehicle and test range performance for long-range atmospheric flights.”
The Crossroads of Special Operations