An experimental hypersonic missile, the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation Program 4, blasted off at over a mile-per-second through the Australian skies earlier this month.
The test is part of a $54 million collaboration between the US Air Force Research Laboratory, Australia’s Department of Defense, Queensland University and several private companies. UQ hypersonics researchers collaborated with the Defence Science and Technology Group (DST Group) and US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Boeing, and BAE Systems.
The vehicle in the video is a ‘free-flying hypersonic glider’, designed to fly at Mach 8 (8000 km/hr). It is designed to separate from its rocket booster in space and perform controlled manoeuvres as it enters the atmosphere. The test flight was intended to enable learning about how to fly a hypersonic vehicle at high altitude.
This is the latest in a series of tests of the HiFIRE 4, which was also tested in Hawaii and Norway in 2012. While the designed speed of the hypersonic missile is faster than that of sound, its advantage lies in its enhanced maneuverability and smooth flight path, which is much harder to track than that of traditional missiles.
In a statement released on July the 10th, Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne congratulated project team members for the successful launch that “takes us one step closer to the realization of hypersonic flight.”
The last test saw the missile reach a speed of Mach 7.5 at a height of 278 km above the perimeter shooting Woomera.