Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, confirmed that France would carry out the maiden flight of its hypersonic glider, the V-MAX (Véhicule Manoeuvrant Expérimental), in the coming months.
In 2019, France contracted ArianeGroup as project manager of the V-MAX program, aimed at developing a hypersonic glider demonstrator. Hypersonic gliders use a boost-glide launch system: first, a rocket propels the weapon, before the payload glides to its target at hypersonic speed.
The maiden test flight could take place soon. “France, like many other major military nations, is developing hypersonic gliders,” the Minister said in a visit to Creil Air Base 110 housing France’s Directorate of Military Intelligence. “Our V-MAX demonstrator should complete its first flight in the coming months.”
“These hypersonic gliders are capable of passing through the most sophisticated air defenses: they are missiles that can reach unprecedented speeds of 6,000 to 7,000 kilometers per hour, in other words, cover the distance between Dunkirk and Nice [across France – ed. note] in 12 minutes,” Parly added.
The announcement was made to illustrate the importance of artificial intelligence for the defense industry and the military. “We know that we will have a compelling need for artificial intelligence to envision all scenarios in record time, analyze all possible responses, and act in the right tempo,” the Minister concluded
In December 2019, Russia’s own hypersonic glider, the Avangard, entered service. On the other side of the Atlantic, the United States contracted Lockheed Martin to develop the Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW). The weapon is still being tested.