By Jim Kouri
Besides today’s news that the U.S. Air Force obtained a batch of 30,000-pound cluster bombs, the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command conducted the first test flight of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) concept in Hawaii. The Pentagon reports that the weapons test was successful.
World powers have called on Iran to co-operate with the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog as they expressed “deepening and increasing concern” about Tehran’s nuclear program. But the Pentagon denies the acquisition of the cluster bombs and the testing of the hypersonic weapon has anything to do with the threat of a nuclear Iran.
The hypersonic weapon is described as the “first-of-its-kind glide vehicle, designed to fly within the earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speed and long range.”
It 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 was to collect data on hypersonic boost-glide technologies and test range performance for long-range atmospheric flight.
According to Pentagon officials, the mission emphasis was 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.
The AHW program is managed and executed by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command program office in Huntsville, Alabama. The booster system and glide vehicle were developed by Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the thermal protection system by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, Huntsville, Alabama.
The Department of Defense is using AHW to develop and demonstrate technologies for Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS). As part of the CPGS effort, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency conducted boost-glide flight tests in April 2010 and August 2011, results from which were used in planning the AHW flight test.