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The US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command has aborted the flight test of the advanced hypersonic weapon (AHW) shortly after its launch due to a flight anomaly.

Launched from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska, the weapon was supposed to fly to the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean at speeds of nearly 4,000 miles/hr, reported The Washington Free Beacon.

The US Department of Defense (Dod) said in a statement: "Due to an anomaly, the test was terminated near the launch pad shortly after lift-off to ensure public safety. There were no injuries to any personnel.

"Programme officials are conducting an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the flight anomaly."

DoD spokeswoman Maureen Schumann was quoted by Reuters as saying: "We had to terminate. The weapon exploded during takeoff and fell back down in the range complex."

The incident caused an undetermined amount of damage to the launch facility, according to Schumann, who also noted that the test data was designed to be used by the Pentagon to anchor ground testing, modelling, and simulation of the vehicle’s performance.

The failed test represents a setback for the DoD’s conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) programme, which aims to develop a long-range non-nuclear weapon capable of quickly reaching targets worldwide.

The AHW is a conical-shaped weapon designed to address the demanding environments and operations of Continental US-based systems capable of global strikes, and can deliver a variety of payloads at medium and global ranges, while flying at supersonic speeds.

Sandia National Laboratories developed the booster system and glide vehicle, while the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) developed the thermal protection system.

In its first test flight in November 2011, the weapon successfully flew from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii, to the Reagan Test Site.

Image: The US Army’s advanced hypersonic weapon lifts off during its first flight test in November 2011. Photo: courtesy photo.

Defence Technology