Mach 20: DoD announces successful test of Advanced Hypersonic Weapon

Mach 20: DoD announces successful test of Advanced Hypersonic Weapon
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Strike first and fast could be the motto of this program. The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command conducted, the 17 of Nov 2011, “the first test flight of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) concept. At 6:30 a.m. EST (1:30 a.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Time) Nov. 17, a first-of-its-kind glide vehicle, designed to fly within the earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speed and long range, was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii to the Reagan Test Site, U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll.

The objective of the test is to collect data on hypersonic boost-glide technologies and test range performance for long-range atmospheric flight. Mission emphasis is aerodynamics; navigation, guidance, and control; and thermal protection technologies.

A three-stage booster system launched the AHW glide vehicle and successfully deployed it on the desired flight trajectory. The vehicle flew a non-ballistic glide trajectory at hypersonic speed to the planned impact location at the Reagan Test Site. Space, air, sea, and ground platforms collected vehicle performance data during all phases of flight. The data collected will be used by the Department of Defense to model and develop future hypersonic boost-glide capabilities.”

Global Security: “Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) is to provide a transformational capability on the order of 6,000 KM [3200 NM] range with 35 minute time-of-flight and < 10 meter accuracy. U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (SMDC/ARSTRAT) is working on the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon-Technology Demonstration with the US Air Force Space and Missile Center. The two services are deliberating how certain AHW technologies might fit into the Air Force’s Prompt Global Strike program, which aims to field a next-generation weapon capable of striking fleeting targets around the globe faster than today’s munitions.

The Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review Report of 2006 highlights the need for ”prompt and high-volume global strike” capability to deter aggression and provide a broader range of conventional options to the President, if deterrence fails. In March 2006, the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), testified before the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces of the Committee on Armed Services that in situations where U.S. general purpose forces are not in a position to respond rapidly to dangerous threats to the United States, the President may require USSTRATCOM to interdict such fleeting targets at global range. The Department of Defense is conducting an analysis of alternatives for prompt global strike capabilities in the near, mid, and long term.

One alternative option for prompt, conventional long-range strike is to employ advanced technologies such as hypersonic vehicles that can travel thousands of miles in the upper atmosphere in under 60 minutes. The Senate Armed Services Committee recommended an increase of $20.0 million in PE 63308A to support a flight test demonstration program for the AHW. The FY2007 budget request included $11.8 million in PE 63308A, for Army Missile Defense Systems Integration, but included no funding for Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) risk reduction efforts. The committee was aware that hypersonic research is being conducted throughout the Department for efforts that go beyond prompt global strike. The committee recommended that the Secretary of Defense establish a joint technology office to coordinate, integrate, and manage hypersonic research. Activities related to the development of the AHW should be consistent with the approach adopted by this new joint technology office for hypersonic development so that the AHW could be considered by the Department as a candidate for a joint technology capability demonstration.”

Photo Credits: Defensetech.org and Defense-update.com