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U.S. successfully tests unarmed hypersonic weapon

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By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Friday said it had tested an unarmed hypersonic weapon in Hawaii, as both China and Russia develop similar military and defense capabilities.

The Department of Defense called the test of the hypersonic glide body late on Thursday a success.

After being lifted into the sky on a rocket to altitudes of between 25 miles (40 km) and 62 miles (100 km), a hypersonic glide vehicle detaches and flies at up to five times the speed of sound along the upper atmosphere toward its target.

Hypersonic glide vehicles can steer an unpredictable course and maneuver sharply as they approach impact. They also follow a much flatter and lower trajectory than the high, arching path of a ballistic missile.

The Navy and Army jointly executed the launch which "flew at hypersonic speed to a designated impact point," the Pentagon said in the statement.

The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency monitored and gathered tracking data from the flight experiment, to inform its ongoing development of systems designed to defend against adversary hypersonic weapons, the statement said.

The Pentagon, which tested a similar hypersonic missile in 2017, has a goal of fielding hypersonic warfighting capabilities in the early to mid-2020s. (Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Tom Brown)