A hypersonic glide vehicle capable of moving at a speed eight times faster than sound has launched from a rocket range in the town of Woomera, South Australia on an unspecified date in early July.
The launch was part of the HIFiRE (Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation) program and performed as part of a research project which features the US military and Boeing.
The experimental flight codenamed HyShot 5 or HiFiRE 4 is a joint effort by researchers from Queensland University Faculty of Engineering, Architecture & Information Technology , Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group – a unit of Australia’s Department of Defence – the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and a number of high-profile private companies, including Boeing and BAE Systems.
The latest test came amid criticisms voiced by some members of the US Congress over the lack of response by the Pentagon to the alleged development of the hypersonic capabilities by Moscow and Beijing. In May, US Navy Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, said at a Congress hearing that Washington will have to counter a potential threat to the US associated with this trend.
In a congratulatory statement from July 10, Australia’s Defense Minister Marise Payne called the launch “a success” that “takes us one step closer to the realization of hypersonic flight.”
The range in Woomera, a remote town in South Australia’s Far North region, housing the Australian Defense Force base and Woomera Test Range, was chosen because of its “vast area and ability to support continuous telemetry collection during the flight,” Payne said.
Saying the July launch would mark the end of the tests performed as part of the HiFiRE series, Payne said Australia aims to maintain its position “at the leading edge of hypersonic research” and looks forward to arranging further hypersonic flight experiments in cooperation with the US.
While the designed speed of the hypersonic missile of Mach 8 (8000 km/hr) nears that of a typical intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the hypersonic glider’s advantage lies in its enhanced maneuverability.