The test flight of the VMAX hypersonic glider was the result of a Franco-American collaboration.

On June 26, 2023, French aeronautical and defense research reached a major milestone, with the first test flight of the VMAX hypersonic glider, in the sky of Biscarrosse, in the Landes. The evolution of the glider, flying at more than Mach 5, had traced, today, an impressive pattern in the sky, demonstrating, unequivocally, its maneuvering capabilities to thwart opposing anti-missile defenses if necessary. But few know that this success was only made possible thanks to the technological assistance of the US Navy.

The test flight of the VMAX hypersonic glider on June 26, 2023

This step was unanimously welcomed by the general and specialized press, while the Minister of Defense congratulated himself on social networks on a major advance for French technology. The VMAX hypersonic glider was, in fact, developed jointly by ONERA and Ariane Espace, under the control of the General Delegation for Armaments, the DGA.

What we know less, however, is that the success of June 26 is the result of intense cooperation between these French industrialists and research centers, and the teams of the US Navy Naval Detachment of White Sands, New Mexico, specializing in the design of tactical launchers.

VMAX hypersonic glider test flight June 16, 2023
The test flight of the VMAX hypersonic glider on June 26, 2023, traced a pattern visible several dozen kilometers around above Biscarrosse.

Un article published by the site, specialized in defense research and technology subjects in the United States, has just lifted the veil on this trans-Atlantic program, which has brought together French and American teams since 2020, both in New Mexico and in the Landes, and whose flight on June 26 constituted the second stage called FS-1, after a first stage with mixed success, FS-0, which took place in October 2021.

The key role of the US Navy and the White Sands teams in this successful test flight

Indeed, the first FS-0 shot, from a two-stage launcher, but without payload, was cut short after an electrical failure occurred after takeoff. However, it appears that all of the mission's key objectives had been achieved, paving the way, albeit with some apprehension, for the FS-1 launch.

Unlike FS-0, FS-1 relied on a 3-stage rocket (a Terrier booster and two Oriole stages), and above all carried for the first time the French payload, the French VMAX hypersonic glider. In addition, the American teams had to manage the issues of shielding, trajectory correction, and of course, separation, to successfully complete their part of the mission, before handing over to the French hypersonic glider.

The rest, we know it. The firing took place as planned, and the VMAX glider was able to demonstrate its capabilities, while supplying ONERA and Ariane Espace with tons of data which will subsequently allow them to refine their models.

3 stage launcher chite sands us navy
The 3-stage terrier-oriole-oriole launcher used for the launch of the VMAX hypersonic glider on June 16, 2023

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