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U.S. Completes Second Hypersonic Missile Flight Test

The Pentagon. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Pentagon. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Air Force recently successfully tested a hypersonic cruise missile produced by Lockheed Martin, the country's second successful in-flight test of such a weapon.

Why it matters: Disclosure of the test comes amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, during which Russian forces have used hypersonic missiles against Ukrainian targets.

  • Certain missiles have been able to fly at hypersonic speeds for several decades now, but newer, specific types of hypersonic missiles are being developed to be highly maneuverable in flight, making them difficult to detect on radars and destroyed with missile defense systems.

DARPA did not say exactly when it and the Air Force conducted the test of Lockheed Martin's version of DARPA and the Air Force's Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept [HAWC].

  • CNN, citing a defense official familiar with the matter, reported Tuesday that it occurred in mid-March.
  • DARPA and the Air Force did not immediately respond to Axios' questions regarding the exact date of the recent test.

What they're saying: "This Lockheed Martin HAWC flight test successfully demonstrated a second design that will allow our warfighters to competitively select the right capabilities to dominate the battlefield,” Andrew Knoedler, HAWC program manager in DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, said in a statement.

  • “These achievements increase the level of technical maturity for transitioning HAWC to a service program of record," he added.
  • DARPA said the missile was dropped from an aircraft before accelerating to and maintaining a cruising speed five times faster than sound for an undisclosed period of time. The missile reached altitudes greater than 65,000 feet and flew for more than 300 nautical miles.

The big picture: The U.S. recently delayed then canceled a scheduled intercontinental ballistic missile test to avoid escalating tensions with Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine.

  • China's hypersonic missile test last year caught U.S. intelligence officials by surprise.
  • Along with Lockheed Martin, a separate missile from another U.S. contractor team reached hypersonic flight last September.

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