The United States announced Friday it has successfully tested an unarmed prototype of a hypersonic missile, a weapon that could potentially overwhelm an adversary’s defense systems.
The Pentagon said a test missile flew at hypersonic speeds — more than five times the speed of sound, or Mach 5 — to a designated impact point.
Advertisements - Click the Speaker Icon for Audio
The test followed the first joint US Army and Navy flight experiment in October 2017, when the prototype missile demonstrated it could glide in the direction of a target at hypersonic speed.
“Today we validated our design and are now ready to move to the next phase towards fielding a hypersonic strike capability,” Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe said in a statement.
Hypersonic weapons can take missile warfare, and particularly nuclear warfare, to a new, and for many frightening, level: they can travel much faster than current nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missiles, at different altitudes and with the maneuverability that makes them difficult to defeat with current missile defense systems.
In December, Russia declared it had placed into service their first Avangard hypersonic missile, making it the first country to claim an operable hypersonic weapon.
Russian officials claimed that in tests it had reached speeds of up to Mach 27, roughly 33,000 kilometers (20,500 miles) per hour.
China is also investing significantly in their development. Last October it displayed its DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle in its national day military parade.