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Army's hypersonic missile fails during test

Aug. 25, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
A rocket carrying an experimental Army strike weapon exploded Aug. 25 after taking off from a launch pad in Alaska.
A rocket carrying an experimental Army strike weapon exploded Aug. 25 after taking off from a launch pad in Alaska. (Scott Wight / AP)
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A test flight of the US Army's Advanced Hypersonic Weapon failed Monday morning. The weapon had a successful test flight in November of 2011, seen here. (US Army)

WASHINGTON — The Army’s new Advanced Hypersonic Weapon failed during an early morning test Monday, the Pentagon announced.

The test launch failed four seconds after taking off from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska, resulting in operators triggering a self-destruct sequence, according to a DoD news release.

“Due to an anomaly, the test was terminated near the launch pad shortly after lift-off to ensure public safety,” the release said, adding that officials are conducting an “extensive” investigation into the cause of the failure.

The Pentagon release did not contain details of the incident, but Alaskan radio station KMXT posted a report online citing eyewitness reports that the weapon quickly veered off trajectory before exploding.

The Army’s test was part of the Pentagon’s overall Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) development program, which aims to develop a long-range non-nuclear weapon capable of quickly reaching targets around the globe. CPGS has been in development since 2003, but the program has finally matured enough that its use should be viable by the early 2020s.

While a CPGS weapon would likely be too expensive to use on smaller targets, such as vehicles or anti-aircraft batteries, they could provide the Pentagon the ability to neutralize major command-and-control centers that form the core of advanced air defense systems.

The Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon program had a successful test launch out of Hawaii in November 2011, covering 2,500 miles in about 30 minutes. The plan calls for the weapon to move at speeds of 3,600 mph.

The Air Force has said it intends to study and invest in hypersonic weapons going forward, making that one of the key technology priorities laid out in its recent 30-year strategy.

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