The US tested a hypersonic missile in mid-March but kept it quiet to avoid provoking Russia, according to a CNN report citing a defense official. Conducted off the West Coast, the missile was launched by a B-52 bomber and was testing the US’s Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), of which another version had flown at hypersonic speeds previously.
It is currently unclear at what stage of testing the missile is in, but previous reports suggest the US hopes to field a hypersonic weapon this year.
The missile flew at over 20,000 meters (65,000 feet) and traveled 480 kilometers (300 miles) during the test, according to a statement released by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The announcement comes a couple of weeks after reports of Russia using a hypersonic weapon, the Kinzhal missile, in the invasion of Ukraine to destroy an underground depot. However, the US withheld the announcement of the test to avoid any escalation with Russia.
The HAWC is the first Lockheed Martin hypersonic missile to be tested successfully, after a Raytheon missile that uses scramjet power was tested last year.
“To know the US has tested it and have the ability to do much more in terms of our stockpiles of these kinds of missiles and potentially others, I think is a counter to Mr Putin’s threat,” said CNN Military Analyst Lt General Mark Hertling, in an interview.
Hypersonic missiles currently launch from aircraft, allowing the missile to be traveling at significant speed and altitude before it begins self-propelled flight, but development is underway on a ground-launched hypersonic missile according to DARPA.