US has successfully tested two hypersonic missiles, Pentagon reveals

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The US has successfully tested two Lockheed Martin Corp hypersonic missiles, a significant development amid the backdrop of geopolitical rivals Russia and China registering recent breakthroughs in testing such technology.

In 2021, China said it had successfully tested a hypersonic weapon that orbited the globe before hitting its target while Russia recently became the first country to use hypersonic weapons in war when it launched its Iskander and Kinzhal missiles at Ukraine.

The US has faced a string of failures in its hypersonic missile programme, leading to concerns that the country is lagging behind Russia and China. In March, Lockheed Martin’s air-launched missiles failed three consecutive tests.

The Pentagon announced on Wednesday, however, that the US air force has now successfully tested its Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) booster on Tuesday off the California coast, reported Reuters.

The booster was carried under the wing of a B-52H bomber before it was launched.

“This second successful test demonstrates ARRW’s ability to reach and withstand operational hypersonic speeds, collect crucial data for use in further flight tests, and validate safe separation from the aircraft,” Lockheed said in a statement.

In earlier tests, the weapon did not detach from the plane.

“We have now completed our booster test series and are ready to move forward to all-up-round testing later this year,” Air Force Brigadier General Heath Collins, programme executive officer, Armament Directorate was quoted as saying in a statement.

Separate hypersonic missile tests carried out using Operational Fires (OpFires) have also been carried out successfully in May and again on Tuesday.

Run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), OpFires is a ground-launched system that will “rapidly and precisely engage critical, time-sensitive targets while penetrating modern enemy air defences”.

DARPA said this was the first flight test of the ground-based hypersonic boost-glide system meant to be launched from a standard military truck.

The first test flight was primarily designed to test the rocket launch from the vehicle.

An official told CNN that further tests of the system will be conducted later this year.

Hypersonic weapons travel in the upper atmosphere at more than five times the speed of sound, or about 6,200 kmh (3,853 mph).