Feeds

Hypersonic missile successfully hits Ronald Reagan

Mach 8 glider warhead covers 2,400 miles in 20-odd mins

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The US Army - yes, Army - has announced a successful test flight by a prototype hypersonic missile. The Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) demonstrator took off from the island of Kauai on a three-stage rocket booster at 1:30 AM local time yesterday, and splashed down close to its target coordinates some 2,400 miles away at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll.

A Pentagon statement announcing the test said:

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 US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command program office in Huntsville, Ala. The booster system and glide vehicle were developed by Sandia National Laboratories and the thermal protection system by the US Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center.

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 [DARPA] conducted boost-glide flight tests in April 2010 and August 2011, results from which were used in planning the AHW flight test.

The previous DARPA tests were much more ambitious, attempting hypersonic glides at Mach 20+ as opposed to the Army space-and-missile-defence command AHW's more sedate Mach 8. Both of those cracked up in flight, but evidently they managed to transmit back some useful data.

Weapons of this type - so-called "boost glide" projects - have a long history, dating back to Nazi plans for a "Silbervogel" rocket bomber which would circumnavigate the globe by skipping along the top of the atmosphere like a flung stone, dropping a bomb on America as it passed. Down the years other proposals and test efforts have been seen, such as the X-20 Dyna-Soar, the Boost Glide Re-entry Vehicle of 1968, etc.

Apart from the failed Hypersonic Test Vehicle trials, DARPA has also lately stated aspirations towards an "Arc Light" boost-glide weapon capable of fitting into the standard launch tubes of US Navy surface warships and able to do Mach 12.

The idea of Conventional Prompt Global Strike as mentioned by the Pentagon is to strike targets anywhere in the world, very quickly. This can already be done using an ICBM, which could easily be modified to carry a conventional warhead, but the fear is that ICBM launches could lead to panic and nuclear war - so hypersonics are being investigated instead.

This does seem a bit odd as nobody panics when a Tomahawk cruise missile gets fired off, and a Tomahawk can carry a nuke - as can a bomber, as could a boost-glide vehicle. However it means more cash for hypersonic research, and that could lead one day to various excellent things such as better access to space, so one mustn't grumble. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.