The U.S. Army has reported astounding accuracy from a test of its hypersonic missile -- the common hypersonic glide body (C-HGB) -- currently being rushed into development and production.
U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy a few days ago revealed a flight test of the C-HGB at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii on March 19 saw this missile strike within a mere six inches of a target situated hundreds of miles away. The missile sped towards its target at over Mach 5 (6,000 km/h).
"Hypersonic missiles are hitting their targets with a variance of only a mere 6 inches," said McCarthy at the Association of the U.S. Army Conference a few days ago.
His revelation adds to the drip-drip of data coming out of the March 19 test. In a statement, the Army said hypersonic weapons capable of flying at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), are highly maneuverable and operate at varying altitudes.
The Army has scheduled four flight tests of its new C-HGB over the next two years as it moves towards the deployment of its first operational hypersonic missile battery by fiscal 2023
It's preparing for another C-HGB flight test in the third quarter of fiscal 2021 (April to June). This will be followed by a second flight test in the first quarter of fiscal 2022, said Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space, and Rapid Acquisition.
Gen. Thurgood said there will be two more flight tests in the third quarter of FY22. C-HGB is being developed for use by both the Army and the U.S. Navy.
C-HGB will serve as the basis for the Pentagon's offensive hypersonic missile capability. The Army, Navy and the U.S. Air Force are each developing separate hypersonic missiles. The Army is developing a ground-launched missile and plans to deploy a hypersonic missile battery by 2023.
"So we'll start the sequence now where we really accelerate our flight testing," said Gen. Thurgood.
Hypersonic boost-glide vehicles such as C-HGB are unpowered. They typically use rocket boosters that propel them to hypersonic speed. Once attaining targeted parameters, they hurtle toward their target at hypersonic speeds along a varying trajectory.
They can maneuver laterally, making them more difficult to intercept by anti-missile missiles because of their unpredictable flight profiles.
This advantage plus their hypersonic speed makes it almost impossible for an adversary to defend against these weapons or to take cover before they hit.
Gen. Thurgood said the successful test in March, "will actually accelerate our program. Our next flight test will be mid-year 2021, followed very quickly by two shots later in 2021."
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has made hypersonic technologies a priority. It's nearly doubled its long-term investment in this weapon. DoD has added $5 billion more in fiscal 2020 funding for hypersonics development alone over the next five years.
Over the next 12 to 14 months, the Army will transfer the high-priority glide-body work from government laboratories to Dynetics Technical Solutions. This firm will produce the first commercially manufactured set of prototype C-HGB systems.
"We have to transition the technology ... from the government labs to our commercial industrial partners who can build this kind of weapon system in quantity," said Gen. Thurgood.