Mar 19, 2024 - World

U.S. Air Force says it conducted hypersonic weapon test in Pacific

A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 4, 2018.

A. U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber taking off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Photo: Tech. Sgt. Richard Ebensberger/Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs/Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The U.S. Air Force said Tuesday it had tested an air-launched hypersonic weapon in the Pacific Ocean after taking off from the American territory of Guam.

Why it matters: The Pentagon is facing congressional pressure in the hypersonic weapons race following developments by China and Russia, per Defense News.

  • Meanwhile, North Korean state media claimed Wednesday morning local time that Kim Jong-un's military had made progress in its development of a hypersonic missile that's designed to have enough range to strike Guam. Three U.S. military bases are located on the island.

Driving the news: A B-52 bomber left Guam on Sunday, carrying an Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), an Air Force spokesperson said in an emailed statement Tuesday evening.

  • "This test launched a full prototype operational hypersonic missile and focused on the ARRW's end-to-end performance," per the statement.
  • "The Air Force gained valuable insights into the capabilities of this new, cutting-edge technology," the spokesperson added.
  • "While we won't discuss specific test objectives, this test acquired valuable, unique data and was intended to further a range of hypersonic programs. We also validated and improved our test and evaluation capabilities for continued development of advanced hypersonic systems."

The intrigue: The Air Force didn't reveal how fast the weapon was traveling, but Reuters notes in "past tests the ARRW has flown at least five times the speed of sound."

Go deeper: What to know about hypersonic missiles Russia is using in Ukraine

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