France has awarded a hypersonic glider demonstrator project to ArianeGroup, which will be conducted under overall project management by the French defence procurement agency, DGA, as announced by Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly on 21st January.
The programme is designated V-max (véhicule manoeuvrant expérimental or experimental manoeuvring vehicle).
"We have decided to award a contract for a hypersonic glider demonstrator," able to reach a speed of over Mach 5 (over 6,000 km/h),” Parly said during her New Year’s address to the armed forces.
Hypersonic gliders — unpowered, manoeuvring vehicles flying at speeds greater than Mach 5 (6,000km/h) — have been under study by the major nuclear powers for several years. To reach hypersonic speed, the glider is boosted by a missile or rocket; most current projects rely on ballistic missiles.
The French programme will be designed to evaluate the potential advantages and limitations of the concept and to study the technologies necessary to develop such a system. The DGA says it will explore the technological trade-offs necessary to achieve hypersonic speed.
The primary challenge will be to remain manoeuvrable at hypersonic speed and to withstand extremely high temperatures. The programme will aim to explore suitable materials of construction and the mass of the warhead that could be carried by a hypersonic glider depending on its size.