US Air Force engineers at the Arnold Air Force Base have successfully stopped a reusable sled travelling at 6,400 feet per second (7,200km/h).
Conducted in March this year and following years of preparation, the sled recovery is the fastest performed in more than 30 years and the first time a reusable sled has been successfully recovered at such high speeds.
The sled tests and the recovery were conducted by the 846th Test Squadron’s Hypersonic Sled Recovery team at the Holloman High Speed Test Track (HHSTT).
The longest facility of its type in the world at 51,000ft, the HHSTT serves as a critical link between laboratory-type investigations and full-scale flight tests. It is the only track capable of recovering sleds with velocities exceeding Mach 5.
Lt. Col. Paul Dolce, commander of the 846th Test Squadron said, “These efforts will now set up our future HyTIP [Hypersonic Test and Evaluation Investment Portfolio] runs for success and add a new capability for our hypersonic customers.”
As demand for hypersonic weapons testing has increased, the frequency and complexity of tests has scaled to match these requirements. There has been renewed focus on recovery of sleds for post-test analysis, with a 6,000ft section of the HHSTT, named the rainfield, dedicated to weather effects testing.
This marks the fifth such test since 2019. Previously, the most recent monorail sled recovery on the HHSTT was in 2004.