The US Air Force announced Monday it successfully tested a hypersonic missile, a cutting edge strategic weapon that is also being developed by China and Russia.
The AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) was launched from a B-52H bomber on Friday off California’s coast and “reached hypersonic speeds greater than five times the speed of sound, completed its flight path and detonated in the terminal area,” the Air Force said.
“This test was the first launch of a full prototype operational missile,” it added.
The United States has multiple hypersonic weapons programs, and the Pentagon’s high-tech research body DARPA tested a different missile earlier this year.
Hypersonic missiles pose a potential threat to the global military balance, capable of being steered to deliver nuclear weapons precisely on target, at speeds too fast to intercept.
China carried out a test of a hypersonic missile last year, and Russia has used hypersonic weapons during its war in Ukraine. North Korea claims to have conducted test flights as well.
The United States highlighted the growing danger from hypersonic weapons in its 2022 Missile Defense Review report.
“Hypersonic weapons, designed to evade US sensors and defensive systems, pose an increasingly complex threat due to their dual (nuclear/conventional) capable nature, challenging flight profile, and maneuverability,” the report said.