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Setback for US hypersonic program as another test ends in failure

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon test article under the wing of a B-52H bomber during an earlier test.

The latest test of a US hypersonic missile in the state of Hawaii failed on Wednesday, the Pentagon said, attributing the failure to an "anomaly" during the first test of the full system.

The failed test was part of the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program, under which aerospace and military equipment company Lockheed Martin is trying to develop weapons capable of flying at super high speeds for use on submarines and ships.

The test, carried out at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii, was supposed to launch the Common Hypersonic Glide Body atop a two-stage missile booster. 

The booster is designed to launch the system and accelerate it to hypersonic speeds above Mach 5, at which point the glide body detaches and uses its speed to reach the target. It was the first time the entire system was tested, called an All Up Round test.

"While the Department was unable to collect data on the entirety of the planned flight profile, the information gathered from this event will provide vital insights," Pentagon spokesman Tim Gorman said in a statement.

He did not provide any additional details on the nature of the anomaly or at what stage of the test it occurred, adding that the Pentagon is currently investigating the reasons for the failure of this missile test.

In October 2021, a similar test failed in Kodiak, Alaska. Despite the failure of both tests, the Pentagon has expressed confidence to develop offensive hypersonic capabilities by the early 2020s.

"Delivering hypersonic weapons remains a top priority and the Department remains confident that it is on track to field offensive and defensive hypersonic capabilities on target dates beginning in the early 2020s," the Pentagon spokesman stated.

The Pentagon has focused its attention recently on hypersonic weapons development amid concerns that the country could lag behind the Chinese and Russian programs. 

China successfully tested a hypersonic weapon last year that orbited the globe before striking its target. Russia has also greatly developed its hypersonic weapons in recent years.

The latest test failure, which was first reported by Bloomberg, has dealt another blow to the US in the race to develop hypersonic missiles.

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