Hypersonic Missile Tests Demonstrate 6-in. Accuracy, U.S. Army Says


Credit: Steve Trimble/AW&ST

U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy on Oct.13 said the accuracy of hypersonic missiles now in development is within half a foot of targets. 

McCarthy’s remarks during a keynote speech at the Association of the U.S. Army’s virtual annual meeting appear to confirm the previously unannounced accuracy results from the Flight Experiment (FE)-2 test on March 19 of the Block 0 Common Hypersonic Glide Body (CHGB). FE-2 marked the first and only test of a hypersonic glide vehicle since the Navy’s FE-1 test in November 2017.  

“Hypersonic missiles are hitting their targets with a variance of only a mere 6 in.,” McCarthy said.

That comment slightly conflicts with general accuracy data from hypersonic missile tests cited by President Trump in a commencement address at West Point in June. 

Trump described “a hypersonic missile that goes 17 times faster than the fastest missile currently available in the world and can hit a target 1,000 mi. away within 14 in. from center point.” 

CNN subsequently confirmed that the hypersonic missile Trump was referring to was the CHGB, which is the rocket-boosted glider for the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon and the Navy’s Intermediate Range Conventional Prompt Strike missiles. It was never clear what Trump meant by saying the missile is “17 times faster” than the fastest missile, unless perhaps he was referring only subsonic cruise missiles. 

But the half-foot accuracy is impressive for a long-range weapon that is able to maneuver within the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. It also may suggest the weapon lacks a warhead capable of producing a large area of damage or destruction, so that level of accuracy is necessary.

The Army plans to field an operational prototype of the LRHW in fiscal 2023. The next flight test, scheduled next year, will integrate the CHGB on a newly designed, 34.5-in.-dia. booster stack for the first time. 


Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.


To be able to hit a target with a 6 inch (the length of your hand) C.E.P. after a flight of thousands of miles while traveling at Mach+ is very nearly magic. It also means that any fixed installation is obsolete. If the US has this capability then others soon will as well. To spend billions of dollars upgrading the US silo based nuclear deterrent now makes even less sense than it did before.
Re: Mr. Roble:

The bad guys aren't interested in pinpoint targets with little collateral damage.

They want to kill us, as many of us as they can.
That's why we need a nuclear deterrent, to let them know worse will happen to them.
. . . and a missile defense
Define "bad guys" first before making your declarative statements.
Doubt it.
How do you see through the hypersonic ion sheath on these goodies. Especially straight ahead?