A test flight of the US hypersonic weapon Dark Eagle, which was expected to be the first missile of its kind in the country’s arsenal, was abruptly canceled by the Pentagon. The Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), also known as Dark Eagle, was supposed to be launched from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The purpose of the test was to further the development of US hypersonic technology.
The US Department of Defense released a statement explaining that the test did not occur due to pre-flight checks, but did not provide specific reasons for the cancellation. Despite the setback, the Pentagon claims to have successfully gathered data on the performance of the ground hardware and software, which will aid in the progress of offensive hypersonic weapons.
However, Bloomberg has raised concerns over whether the US military will be able to meet its goal of declaring the Dark Eagle combat-ready by September 30, considering the last-minute cancellation of the test. This adds doubt to the timeline for deploying hypersonic weapons.
This is not the first time a test of the LRHW has been canceled. In March, a previous test was also called off due to pre-flight checks. Navy Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe later revealed that the issue was related to a battery that failed to activate.
Dark Eagle is a joint development project between the army and the navy and is expected to be the first hypersonic system fielded by the US. However, the US has faced setbacks in its hypersonic weapon development program. Earlier this year, the Pentagon canceled its ARRW (Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon) hypersonic air-to-ground missile program after multiple failed tests.
The development of hypersonic weapons has become a race between major powers like the US, Russia, and China. Analysts have noted that the US lags behind Russia and China in this field. Hypersonic weapons are believed to be highly maneuverable and faster than existing air defense systems can intercept.
In recent years, Russia has made significant advancements in hypersonic technology. It has developed multiple hypersonic systems, including the Avangard glider, the Zircon missile, and the air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missile. The Kinzhal has been deployed in several instances during the conflict in Ukraine. In May, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported that the hypersonic missile caused substantial damage to a US-supplied Patriot air defense system in Kiev.
The cancellation of the Dark Eagle test further highlights the challenges faced by the US in developing hypersonic weapons. As other countries continue to make progress, it remains to be seen how quickly the US can catch up and field operational hypersonic systems.