The United States military tested a hypersonic missile last month but decided to keep it quiet for two weeks in order to avoid ramping up tensions further with Russia.
The mid-march test came just as President Joe Biden was set to travel to Europe to discuss Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, CNN reported, though scant details have been released about the situation.
The test was conducted off the west coast with the missile, a Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), launched from a B-52 bomber.
The missile’s booster engines first push the weapon up to a high speed before the air-breathing scramjet engine kicks in, pushing the missile to hypersonic speeds of Mach 5 and faster, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The missile flew at heights greater than 65,000 feet for 300 miles – which would have taken around five minutes – though officials provided few details about the flight.
DARPA said the test met all of its objectives, including the missile’s integration and release, safe separation from the launch aircraft, booster firing, and cruise.
The test came at a time when tensions between Russia and U.S. are heightened due to the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, and just days after Russia used its own hypersonic missiles on an ammunition warehouse in western Ukraine.
US officials recently downplayed Russia’s use of their own hypersonic Kinzhal missile which is essentially an air-launched version of a Russian Islander short-range ballistic missile and not new hypersonic weaponry.
The US test involved the use of a powerful engine, called an air-breathing scramjet.
The HAWC missile does not contain a warhead – but relies instead on sheer kinetic energy to destroy targets.