The rocket carrying the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon was terminated near a pad of the Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island shortly after liftoff, spokeswoman Maureen Schumann said.
After an anomaly was detected, testers made the decision to destroy the rocket to ensure public safety, Schumann said.
"It came back down on the range complex," she said. "Fortunately, no people on the ground were injured. There was damage, but I'm not sure of the extent of it at this time."
The launch complex is about 25 miles from the city of Kodiak.
Witnesses watched the rocket lift off at 12:25 a.m., quickly head nose-down and explode, KMXT radio reported.
Kodiak photographer Scott Wight watched the launch from Cape Greville in Chiniak, about a dozen miles from the launch site. He described the explosion as quite loud and scary. A fire afterward burned brightly.
The rocket was the booster for the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, a glide vehicle designed to quickly reach a target. The design is one of several being tested by the Army under the umbrella of the Conventional Prompt Global Strike program, Schumann said.
"It's a concept that will allow the Department of Defense to engage any target anywhere in the world in less than an hour," she said.
The first flight test of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon on Nov. 17, 2011, flew the weapon from Hawaii to Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific.
The test Monday was designed to enhance previous ground testing, modeling and simulation, Schumann said. Traveling at hypersonic speed, the glider also was aimed at Kwajalein and was supposed to cover the 3,500 miles in less than an hour, Schumann said.
The booster and glide vehicles were built by Sandia National Laboratories of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The glide vehicle's thermal protection system was designed by the Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center in Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.