Woomera hosts secret hypervelocity missile tests; CLIP

AUSTRALIA has quietly concluded a set of test flights of a missile capable of burning through the skies at more than 10,000km/h — and still changing course.

Any missile — or aircraft — capable of moving at such speeds will have been and gone before any defensive system could react.

And while China and Russia have both been boasting of their own advances in the field, Australia has also been working away with the United States to perfect the technology.

Defence minister Marise Payne says in a statement released on her website that the $54 million Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HiFIRE) tests recently wrapped up in the skies above the remote South Australian town of Woomera.

By definition, hypersonic speeds are any above Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound), or 6174km/h.

“Hypersonic flight is more than five times the speed of sound and has the potential to revolutionise air travel, making it faster and cheaper to travel around the world and into space,” Ms Payne says.

“There are key military applications of this technology and by understanding hypersonic flight, the Australian Defence Force will be in a better position to respond to future threats.”

REACHING FOR THE SKY

Australia and the United States have been working in partnership on hypervelocity flight for almost a decade. The first launch of one of its test vehicles was conducted in 2009, with subsequent tests including 2012 and 2016.

Tops speeds obtained have reportedly been as high as Mach 8 (9878km/h).

But controlled hypersonic flight has proven to be a serious challenge.

A series of tests around the world have failed with vehicles becoming unstable before tumbling through the skies and breaking up.

MORE: Woomera hypervelocity missile tests a success, says Marise Payne

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