The US Army's Advanced Hypersonic Weapon exploded four seconds after takeoff in a test mission.
The US Army's Advanced Hypersonic Weapon exploded four seconds after takeoff in a test mission. US Army

A new missile designed to travel at five times the speed of sound and destroy targets anywhere in the world within an hour has burst into flames.

The incident occurred at the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska, said Maureen Schumann, spokeswoman for the U.S. Defense Department.

"The weapon exploded during takeoff and fell back down the range complex," Schumann told Reuters, who added that no-one was hurt during the aborted test.

The missile was destroyed four seconds after launch following a malfunction, according to the Pentagon.

The weapon was developed by Sandia National Laboratory and the US Army, as part of the "Conventional Prompt Global Strike" technology development program.

It's aim is to build a weapon that can destroy targets anywhere on the plaent within 60 minutes of getting data and permission to launch. Once fully tested, the glider-type craft will soar almost into space before diving into the atmosphere and locking on to its target.

Controllers aborted the test after finding a problem as a rocket carried the weapon from a test range in the US state of Alaska, the Department of Defence said.

Eye witnesses told radio station KMXT 100.1 FM that the rocket carrying the weapon lifted off but turned nose down and quickly self-destructed or exploded after hitting the ground.

Officials from the program, the US Army, Navy and Missile Defense Agency are conducting an investigation to find out what caused the accident.

The system, which was not carrying a warhead, was supposed to fly to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

There has been a previous successful launch of the weapon from Hawaii in November 2011, stated the military. The craft is being developed by the US Army and a subsidiary of defence contractor Lockheed Martin.

The term hypersonic is defined as exceeding Mach 5 - five times the speed of sound, or 3,700 mph (6,000kph).