Air Force’s experimental Mach-5 missile crashes during test

Posted at 3:27 PM, Aug 15, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-15 15:27:02-04

Wired’s Danger Room reports that a crucial test for the Air Force’s experimental Mach-5 missile has ended in failure. This is the third failure in three tests.

The Air Force launched the missile over the Pacific sometime between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Tuesday from a B-52 Stratofortress based at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Traveling at 50,000 feet, the B-52 was to launch the missile, which would then scream across the Pacific at hypersonic speeds. The missile got away from the B-52, but then flopped uncontrollably into the ocean.

The stakes were high. So far the tests have cost the Pentagon some $300 million. True, the millions in research and testing have helped advance the field of hypersonics, but the shortage of tangible results have also helped spoil the confidence the Air Force once had in producing a working weapon. The failure also has serious implications for the military’s “prompt global strike” mission, which aims to use missiles with engines capable of hypersonic flight to wallop targets hundreds — even thousands — of miles away and do so within minutes.