Nov. 25 (UPI) — A B-1B Lancer bomber conducted a demonstration testing its ability to externally carry potential hypersonic weapons, the U.S. Air Force announced.
The “external captive carry” test was conducted last week by the 412th Test Wing’s 419th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., the Air Force said on Tuesday.
The plane carried an inert Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile outside its fuselage.
An earlier test demonstrated the capability of carrying large weapons within the plane. The tests indicate that the B-1B can deliver and launch large hypersonic weapons, which by definition fly at over five times the speed of sound.
The United States, China and Russia are all developing hypersonic missiles.
Russia announced the test-firing of its Zircon hypersonic missile in October, striking a target 300 miles from its firing location after traveling at over 6,100 mph.
In 2018, the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics claimed that it successfully tested a hypersonic aircraft that could “break any missile defense system.”
The next step by the Air Force will be a demonstration of a release of an external weapon from the aircraft, the branch said.
“Adapting a small number of our healthiest B-1s to carry hypersonic weapons is vital to bridge between the bomber force we have today, to the force of tomorrow,” Gen. Tim Ray, Air Force Global Strike Command commander, said in a press release.
“This is a major step forward in our global precision fires capability and it is important we pursue these technologies to remain ahead of our competitors,” Ray said.