The U.S. Navy is preparing to conduct a second flight experiment of a hypersonic glide vehicle for the Department of Defense’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program, which aims to develop non-nuclear hypersonic weapons, according to a service official.

The first flight experiment (CPS FE-1), which the Navy conducted Oct. 30 from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, “met all of our objectives,” said Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, director of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs (SSP). 

Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, director of the U.S. Navy's Strategic Systems Programs (Navy photo)
Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, director of the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs (Navy photo)

“The results of that are classified, but it was a very successful experiment,” Benedict testified April 11 before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces panel.

Benedict said his office is also conducting a “motor competition” for CPS.

“The inputs from industry are in SSP, we are evaluating those and I would suspect that we will make an award here very shortly,” Benedict said.

Other agencies, including the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), are also conducting research on hypersonic vehicles, or those that travel at least five times the speed of sound. But Michael Griffin, the Pentagon’s new technology chief, said in March that more must be done in this area and that new budget lines for hypersonics could appear in DoD’s fiscal year 2020 budget request, if not sooner (Defense Daily, March 6).

“Both China and Russia are observably ahead of where our current state of practice is” in hypersonics, Griffin said at the Hudson Institute April 13. Those two countries are “not ahead of where we could be,” but they are “ahead of our current state of practice, and we’re playing catch-up ball.”