UK & World News

  • 26 August 2014, 9:09

Hypersonic Weapon Explodes Seconds Into Test

A hypersonic weapon being developed by the US military was destroyed four seconds after launch following a malfunction, the Pentagon has said.

Controllers aborted the test after detecting a problem as a rocket carried the weapon from a test range in Alaska , the Department of Defense said.

Witnesses said they saw the rocket lift off then explode. 

The Advanced Hypersonic Weapon is designed to travel at five times the speed of sound and destroy targets anywhere in the world within an hour of launch.

The glider-type craft will soar almost into space before diving into the atmosphere to its target, it is envisaged.

Pentagon spokeswoman Maureen Schumann said no one was hurt in the launch at the Kodiak Launch Complex.

"We had to terminate less than four seconds after take-off," she told Sky News.

Ms Schumann said military officials were investigating the cause of the failure.

The system, which had no warhead, was supposed to fly to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

A previous launch of the weapon, from Hawaii in November 2011, was deemed successful, said the military.

The craft is being developed by the US Army and a subsidiary of defence contractor Lockheed Martin as part of the the "Prompt Global Strike" programme.

The term hypersonic is defined as exceeding Mach 5 - five times the speed of sound, or 3,700 mph (6,000kph).