US successfully tested a hypersonic missile last month but kept it secret for
two weeks to avoid escalating tensions with Russia due to President Joe Biden’s
Europe tour, a defence official in the know of the development said.

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to the official, as CNN reported, the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept
(HAWC) was launched from a B-52 bomber off the west coast in the first
successful test of the Lockheed Martin version of the system. A booster engine
accelerated the missile to high speed, at which point the air-breathing
scramjet engine ignited and propelled the missile at hypersonic speeds of Mach
5 and above.

further details of the missile test, the official said that the missile flew
above 65,000 feet and for more than 300 miles. But even at the lower end of the hypersonic range — about 3,800 miles per hour, a flight of 300 miles is less
than 5 minutes.

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test came days after Russia said that it used its own hypersonic missile to
target an ammunition warehouse in western Ukraine.

Pentagon, however, downplayed the significance of the Kinzhal missile. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said he did not view
it as “some sort of game changer” after the Russians announced the
missile launch. Days later, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said it was
“hard to know what exactly the justification” was for the launch since it targeted a stationary storage facility.

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a pretty significant sledgehammer to take out a target like that,” Kirby
said at the time.

Kinzhal missile is simply an air-launched version of the Russian Iskander
short-range ballistic missile. In other words, it is a variation of an established
technology as opposed to a revolution in hypersonic weaponry. The US test was
of a more sophisticated and difficult air-breathing scramjet engine. The HAWC
missile also has no warhead, instead of relying on its kinetic energy to destroy
the target.

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the time of the US test, Biden was preparing for a visit to NATO allies in
Europe, including a stop in Poland where he met with Ukraine’s foreign minister
and defense minister.

US has been careful not to take steps or make statements that could unnecessarily
escalate the tensions between Washington and Moscow. On Friday, the US cancelled
a test of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to avoid
any misinterpretation by Russia. Austin had already postponed the test in early
March to avoid any actions that could be misconstrued by Russia at such a
sensitive time.

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general, the US has also remained somewhat discreet about the weapons and
equipment it sends into Ukraine. Only in the latest $300 million security
assistance package did the Defence Department list specific systems and