First flight test of Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) concept
By Darren Quick
November 20, 2011
Following the two test flights of the unmanned Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2) earlier this year, both of which ended prematurely with the vehicle making a "controlled descent" into the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command last week conducted the first test flight of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) concept.
Both the HTV-2 and AHW are part of the U.S. military's Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) program, which aims to develop a system to deliver a precision conventional weapon strike anywhere in the world within one hour, just as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) can do with a nuclear warhead.
The first-of-its-kind AHW concept, which is designed to fly at hypersonic speeds (generally referred to as speeds of Mach 5 and above) and long range, was launched at 6:30 a.m. U.S. EST on November 17 from the Pacific Missile Range Facility located in Kauai, Hawaii using a three-stage booster system.
After successful deployment on the desired flight trajectory by the booster system, the AHW glide vehicle flew a non-ballistic glide trajectory at hypersonic speed to the planned impact location at the Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands over 3,500 km (2,175 miles) away in under half an hour.
Results from the boost-glide tests of the HTV-2 conducted by DARPA were used in the planning of the AHW flight test. The Department of Defense says the data collected by space, air, sea and ground platforms during all phases of the AHW test flight will now be used by to model and develop future hypersonic boost-glide capabilities.