Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the event today after it was completed.
Carter said in a statement that “based on the successful performance of the advanced test vehicles, we will take immediate steps to enable the Space Development Agency to fully design and develop the practical next-generation hypersonic weapon platform and deploy it in the next five years.
In an interview with Business Insider, Navy Adm. Cecil Haney, head of the Strategic Capabilities Office, said the test was a success. “When you see three missiles traveling at a reported altitude of 500 miles in a lump-sum fashion, that’s a great test,” he said.
Haney said the two flights lasted a combined 13 minutes and that the rocket sustained damage in the landing period. He said the research and development program is expected to cost up to $1 billion and that testing would continue well into the future.
The goal of hypersonic weapons is to be able to travel at seven times the speed of sound and launch projectiles at five times the speed of sound. Haney said the test flew at hypersonic speeds but could still travel at high speeds and altitudes beyond what today’s conventional missiles can do.
At a press conference after the test, Haney said that the rockets are portable but carry a 1,000-pound payload, which would make them a critical piece of the next generation of munitions.
“Hypersonic weapons are powerful and are designed to defeat all other threats by making them much less lethal or survivable,” Haney said. “The goal is to be able to hit any target anywhere on the planet.”
Scientists are divided about the ability of hypersonic weapons to overcome adversary countermeasures such as tank turrets and air defenses. But Haney said that hypersonic weapons are expected to reduce the cost of war against long-range enemies.