| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

France conducts maiden test of hypersonic glider

France has undertaken the first test of a prototype hypersonic glider, according to the country’s defense procurement agency, as it strives to develop new missile technology capable of avoiding the most advanced air defense systems.

According to the service, a sounding rocket carrying a VMAX hypersonic glider launched from the Biscarosse missile test facility in the Bay of Biscay in southern France on Monday.

“Its flight test, on a very demanding long-range trajectory, represented an unprecedented technical challenge that will pave the way for the future of our national hypervelocity roadmap,” according to the agency in a statement.

It gave no details on the outcome of the test but said an analysis of data collected during the test was underway.

In 2019, France contracted aerospace company ArianeGroup to manage the VMAX program, aimed at developing a hypersonic glider demonstrator.

Hypersonic gliders — unpowered, manoeuvring vehicles flying at speeds greater than Mach 5 (6,000km/h) — have been under study by major nuclear powers for several years.

They typically use a rocket to propel the glider to a high altitude tens of kilometres above the earth before the glider and its payload descend back at hypersonic speed.

Hypersonic gliders are being designed to carry a nuclear or conventional warhead. Unlike ballistic missiles whose trajectories are fixed at launch, hypersonic gliders can change direction at high speed.

  • Reuters