The US announced Tuesday that it had successfully test-fired a hypersonic missile after reportedly keeping the launch hush-hush for two weeks to prevent an escalation of tensions with Russia.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) revealed the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) flew above 65,000 feet for more than 300 miles while reaching speeds faster than Mach 5.
The DARPA statement made no mention of the timing of the test, but CNN reported that it took place while President Biden was getting ready last month to travel to Brussels. Biden attended an emergency NATO summit in the Belgian capital before continuing on to Poland, where he met with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Ukrainian refugees and US troops.
Last month’s launch was the second successful test of the HAWC, with the first test taking place in September.
The US, which has treaded lightly during the Russian invasion in order to keep a lid on already high tensions between Washington and Moscow, also canceled a test of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile last week to avoid any misinterpretation by the Kremlin, according to CNN.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had initially postponed the test early last month.
The HAWC test was launched to see how the air-breathing scramjet engine would perform, and the missile did not carry a warhead, instead using its kinetic energy to destroy a target, DARPA said.
The US has ramped up its development of hypersonic weapons following successful test-firings of similar rockets by China and Russia recently.
President Biden confirmed on March 21 that Russia had launched a hypersonic missile over Ukraine, describing it as an act of desperation in light of stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces that had stymied the Russian troop advance in the country.
“The more his back is against the wall, the greater the severity of the tactics he may employ,” Biden warned.