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U.S Army prepares to test hypersonic weapon in 2020

Officials said they plan to field the hypersonic weapon by 2023, and that they also expect to field the first combat vehicles with lasers on them in 2022.

By Ed Adamczyk
Tests of a hypersonic weapon will begin in 2020, the Army announced this week. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command
Tests of a hypersonic weapon will begin in 2020, the Army announced this week. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command

June 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army announced it will test a hypersonic weapon in 2020.

In addition to the hypersonic weapon, the Army plans to field combat vehicles with 50-kilowatt lasers on them sometime in 2022, Pentagon officials told reporters on June 4.

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Thurgood announced on Tuesday that RCCTO will also field a four-vehicle battery of Stryker combat vehicles with 50-kilowatt laser weapons by 2022.

The hypersonic weapon -- the term denotes a speed many times that of sound but typically it refers to Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound or higher -- involves a "glide body" launched from a 30-foot device, called a transporter erector launcher, carried by four tactical trucks. The glide body is under development at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

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The weapon is "the first shoot ever off of the transporter erector launcher," Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood of the Army's Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office said on May 23. "It will be done by soldiers. The reason we're going to do that is because we need them to start training. We need to get this equipment in the hands of soldiers quickly to learn."

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The RCCTO oversees the Army's development of hypersonic, directed energy and space weapons. It is based at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., with an office in the Pentagon.

While the weapon will be produced and tested by the Army, it will also be used by the Air Force and Navy. It is part of a $1.2 billion program to be spent by 2024 on experimental prototyping of the weapon.

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The program lays the groundwork for a new triad of conventional hypersonic strike weapons to arm the military services with a common hypersonic glide body, equipped with rockets tailored to launch from specific platforms. It would comprise a new class of maneuverable weapons across the U.S. military, officials say.

Essentially an exceedingly fast missile fired from a cannon, it could potentially strike enemy targets thousands of miles away.

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