The United States Air Force says it has conducted a successful test of a hypersonic weapon, which flew at five times the speed of sound.
The test was conducted on Saturday off the coast of Southern California when a B-52 bomber released an Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), the Air Force said in a statement on Monday.
“Following separation from the aircraft, the ARRW’s booster ignited and burned for expected duration, achieving hypersonic speeds five times greater than the speed of sound,” it said.
The US also said it tested a successful hypersonic missile in mid-March, while the Washington-led AUKUS alliance, which also includes the United Kingdom and Australia, has announced plans to work together to develop the high-speed weapons.
The US and its allies are not alone in developing hypersonic weapons, whose speed and manoeuvrability make them difficult to track and intercept.
Russia has fired hypersonic missiles at targets in Ukraine several times since its invasion on February 24, including deploying a Kinzhal or “Dagger” hypersonic air-to-surface missiles at the city of Odesa earlier this month.
Russia claims the Kinzhal travels at 10 times the speed of sound.
But the Pentagon, which is supplying Ukraine with weapons in its war against Russia, said Moscow’s use of hypersonic weapons against Kyiv does not change the nature of the conflict.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley told legislators that Russian forces have used “several hypersonic missiles”, but “other than the speed of the weapon – in terms of its effect on a given target – we are not seeing really significant or game-changing effects to date with the delivery of the small number of hypersonics that the Russians have used”.
US military officials have also accused China of testing hypersonic weapons, but the Chinese foreign ministry denied in October that it had conducted a weapons test.