An experimental weapon that the U.S. military is working on failed after it was launched from a test range in Alaska on Monday prompting the initiation of a self-destruct sequence.
Pentagon said that the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, which is part of the Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) program, a collaboration of Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the Army Forces Strategic Command, that aims to develop a weapon with the ability to destroy targets anywhere on Earth in under an hour, exploded just four seconds after it was launched.
Controllers identified problems and the issue prompted the abortion of the mission to secure the safety of the public. U.S. Defense Department spokesperson Maureen Schumann said that no one was hurt because of the incident, which happened at a test range in Kodiak Island in Alaska shortly 4 am EDT on Monday albeit the incident caused damage to the launch facility.
"We had to terminate," Schumann said. "The weapon exploded during takeoff and fell back down in the range complex. Fortunately, no people on the ground were injured. There was damage, but I'm not sure of the extent of it at this time."
Eyewitnesses said that the weapon went off course immediately after it took off and eventually exploded. The Department of Defense said that an extensive investigation by officials from the U.S. Army, Navy, and the Missile Defense Agency is being conducted to determine the cause of the failure. Results of the investigation, however, may not be available soon as it may take weeks or even months before the findings are concluded.
"Due to an anomaly, the test was terminated near the launch pad shortly after lift-off to ensure public safety," the Department of Defense said in a statement. "Program officials are conducting an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the flight anomaly."
The weapon, which is developed by the U.S. Army and the Sandia National Laboratory and travels at hypersonic speed covering 3,500 miles in less than one hour, could be used to target satellite-identified terrorists located thousands of miles away and to strike weapons of mass destruction.
Defense analyst James Acton, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, however, said that Pentagon has not specified the weapon's mission although it could be used as an anti-terrorist tool. Some also see the weapon as part of an arms race with other countries, notably China, which also tested a hypersonic system earlier this year.