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U.S. Air Force says it successfully tested hypersonic weapon

U.S. Air Force says it successfully tested hypersonic weapon
A B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 419th Flight Test Squadron was used over the weekend to launch a hypersonic weapon off the coast of Southern California. File Photo by Giancarlo Casem/Air Force

May 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force said it has successfully conducted a test of a hypersonic weapon over the weekend amid a growing race with China and Russia to develop such military technology.

The military branch announced Monday that a B-52H Stratofortress aircraft successfully released a AGM-1831 Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon that achieved speeds five times greater than the speed of sound.

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The test was conducted Saturday off the coast of Southern California, it said.

"This was a major accomplishment by the ARRW team for the weapons enterprise and our Air Force," Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, Air Force program executive officer for weapons, said in a statement. "The team's tenacity, expertise and commitment were key in overcoming the past year's challenges to get us to the recent success."

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"We are ready to build on what we've learned and continue moving hypersonics forward," he said.

Hypersonic weapons are those that travel at speeds of at least March 5, which is five times faster than the send of sound, and are considerably faster than traditional missiles, making them difficult to intercept.

The test was held more than a month after the administration of President Joe Biden entered a partnership with Australia and Britain to accelerate development of the advanced hypersonic capabilities, and nearly two months after the United States accused Russia of using one of these missiles in its war against Ukraine.

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The United States has been seeking to develop hypersonic weapons since the early 2000s but funding has been relatively restrained though both the Department of Defense and Congress have shown growing interest in the weaponry due to advances by Russia and China, according to a report from the Congressional Research service produced early this month.

The Pentagon budget ask for fiscal year 2023 included $4.7 billion for hypersonic weaponry, an increase from $3.8 billion a year prior.

The Air Force said the weapon launched over the weekend is designed to enable the U.S. to "hold fixed, high-value, time-sensitive targets at risk" and that it will expand precision-strike capabilities.

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"Our highly skilled team made history on this first air-launched hypersonic weapon," said Lt. Col. Michael Jungquist, commander of the 419th Flight Test Squadron that conducted the weekend test. "We're doing everything we can to get this game-changing weapon to the warfighter as soon as possible."

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