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Test of high-speed missile ends prematurely

The Advanced Hypersonic Weapon is launched in a 2011 test.
The Advanced Hypersonic Weapon is launched in a 2011 test.
U.S. Army

The U.S. Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon is supposed to be able to cruise through the Earth’s atmosphere at 3,600 miles per hour, or about five times the speed of sound. But during a flight test Aug. 25, the experimental missile barely got off the ground.

The missile was launched shortly after 4 a.m. Eastern time from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska, but it was intentionally destroyed moments later due to an unspecified problem.

"Due to an anomaly, the test was terminated near the launch pad shortly after liftoff to ensure public safety,” the Department of Defense said in a statement.

No injuries were reported, and “program officials are conducting an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the flight anomaly,” the department said.

The missile is designed to fly far and fast enough to allow the U.S. military to hit a target anywhere on Earth with a conventional, or non-nuclear, punch. During the missile’s first test, in 2011, the missile traveled 2,500 miles in 30 minutes, the Army said. This month's test was intended to help the Army determine the missile’s future.