PTI | Last Modified - Nov 20, 2011, 02:42 PM IST
New Delhi: The US military successfully conducted the first test flight of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) concept.
In a statement issued by the US Department of Defence, the AHW is a first-of-its-kind glide vehicle, designed to fly long range within the earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speed.
The hypersonic flying missile travels five times the speed of sound and is rumoured to gain up to mach 20 speeds. More impressively, it can strike a target in any location on Earth in just 30 minutes.
The test flight was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii to the Reagan Test Site, U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll. It completed the 2,500 mile (approx.) journey in just 20 minutes.
It is remotely controlled using sensors which take millions of measurements of temperature, navigation and speed.
The AHW can carry a payload of up to 5500 kgs, including a nuclear bomb or missile. However, if the AHW is developed for military application, the US will be wary of using it to carry nuclear material due the fear of initiating a nuclear war.
With the AHW in its fleet, the US will no longer be dependent on its military might stationed around the world. It will be able to strike any target within 30 minutes.
According to the statement issued by the US Department of Defense, the purpose of AHW is to develop and demonstrate technologies for Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS).
The testing of the AHW comes at a time when the US is faced with the prospect of massive defence cuts in the wake of weak economic conditions in the country.
Recently, American Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had asserted that the US will never surrender its status as a global power and a global leader.
"As we examine our geographic priorities, it's important to remember that we can and we will do more than one thing at a time. US security commitments are not zero-sum.
"And even as we enhance our presence in the Pacific, we will not surrender our status as a global power and a global leader," Panetta had said in his remarks at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada.
His comments came at a time when US is wooing Asian countries large and small to help America's security agenda and is anxious to build some regional political balance to the rising might of China.
Earlier, in a clear message to China, President Barack Obama had said that US will maintain its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region despite budget cuts, declaring that America was "here to stay" as a Pacific power.
He was referring to the US decision to base its military aircraft and up to 2,500 Marines in northern Australia. A move which has claerly riled China.
With the power to strike any target in the world within 30 minutes, the US will become less dependent on its military bases stationed in various countries.