The Reentry Target Vehicle (RTV) is lifted from the ground by a hot air balloon.

Mission 16 — Hypersonic Simulated Nuclear Warhead Target, Drop Test

Dumitru Popescu
Commercial ECOROCKET
3 min readOct 15, 2023


ARCA is currently developing its first military application products consisting of a series of non-offensive target vehicles, designed for the training of anti-aircraft, anti-cruise missiles and anti-ballistic forces.

This series of products includes a Reentry Target Vehicle (RTV) which simulates the terminal flight of nuclear and conventional Reentry Vehicles (RV) deployed by Short and Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM / MRBM).

A typical RTV flight includes the launch with a CER-1200RTV rocket followed by the release of the RTV at an altitude of 60 km. The RTV is then accelerated towards the ground using its rocket booster until the vehicle reaches a hypersonic speed of Mach 6.6 at an altitude of 34 km. From this altitude, the interception window for the antiballistic systems is opened.

The first drop test for the RTV was designated as Mission 16.

The first Mission 16 attempt took place at the end of September, but bad weather prevented us from performing the flight test, therefore we rescheduled it for October 4th, 2023.

The mission’s objectives were:

  • experimentally obtain the vehicle’s flight data, and confirm the input aerodynamic data;
  • record the vehicle’s stability at low dynamic pressure, without using the spin stabilization feature.

A hot air balloon lifted the RTV and released it from an altitude of 410 m which, taking into account the test site altitude, lead to a drop height of 320 m.

The moment the RTV is released from an altitude of 410m.

The RTV, attached underneath the balloon nacelle was released at 08:35 local time and hit the ground after 9,5 s.

The RTV during is falling towards the ground during Mission 16.

Mission results:

  • the aerodynamic data for low dynamic pressure were obtained;
  • the vehicle’s stability data was obtained from both the onboard IMU as well as from video footage. The vehicle presented a slight attitude instability without the activation of its spin stabilization system, which translated in minor speed loss during descent.
The RTV after the impact.

The RTV simulates the flight of various warheads delivered to target by rockets such as the Chinese DF-11A and 15C, Iranian Shahab-3 and Quiam 1, Indian Agni-I and North Korean Hwasong 7.

The RTV serve as target for the training of antiballistic forces using various interception hardware such as the US made MIM-104 Patriot, Russian made S-300/400/500 and Israeli made Arrow 2 and David’s Sling.

The flight profile for an RTV launched with a CER-120RTV rocket and the interception window (dashed lines) for the Arrow 3 and S-300/S-400/S-500 antiballistic systems.

The testing for the RTV continues at ARCA as the system is going to hit the market in September 2024.

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