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Is the U.S. Air Force Having Trouble Building Hypersonic Missiles?

ARRW Hypersonic Missile
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (June 12, 2019) B-52 out of EDW carries ARRW IMV asset for its first captive carry flight over Edwards Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Okula)

The Air Force, for quite some time, has been trying to make hypersonic missiles. There have been some indications of late, however, that the effort is having some trouble.

As has been noted for a few weeks, a prototype of the Air Force’s hypersonic AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) failed to ignite after separating from the B-52 Stratofortress.

“The ARRW team continues to progress through the rapid prototyping effort with a steadfast commitment to the well-being of Airmen and equipment, striking a balance between prudent risk and rapid advancement of the program,” the Air Force statement after the test said.

Now, a new report states that the Air Force Secretary, Frank Kendall, is “unsatisfied” with the progress of the hypersonics program.

According to Air Force Magazine, Kendall was speaking at the AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference, and noted that the U.S. risks falling behind other countries’ hypersonic missile programs.

“They’re moving very quickly,” Kendall said of Chinese and Russian hypersonics efforts, per the magazine. “They clearly see the value.” The secretary added that hypersonics are one of the possible “asymmetric approaches” ‘to force structure that China and Russia are taking,’ while pointing out the need to find the “target set we want to address” with hypersonic missiles.

Kendall also stated that there remains a “question mark” about whether hypersonics are the most effective method of their mission, while adding that he has yet to hear “all the analysis that has been done to justify the current program.”

“I think if the [funding is] there…the industrial base will respond,” Kendall added in his remarks. “I think we will get there… but we have to solve the problem first of where we’re trying to go, and then get there as quickly as possible.”

Kendall, an Army officer who is also both an engineer and a lawyer, was previously the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics — which made him the top weapons buyer in the Pentagon — during the Obama Administration.

Kendall was nominated as Secretary of the Air Force in July by President Biden and confirmed in July, after three Senators who had objected released their holds, per Defense News.

Two Democratic Senators from Michigan, Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, had temporarily placed holds in order to ensure that Michigan’s military installations remained in place, while holds had also been placed by Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Republican Mike Lee of Utah. Warren had asked that Kendall agree to extend his ethics agreement and industry recusals, Air Force Magazine had reported at the time.

In addition to the Air Force, he also oversees the Space Force.

 Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Slack

    September 21, 2021 at 2:48 pm

    Eventually, the USAF will get it right and their boffins will give the green light for mass production.

    It will then lead to USAF to forward base their newfangled hypersonic missiles and the launcher aircraft and sooner or later, the military top brass will be VERY greatly tempted to use or try them and thus WW3 will become inevitable.

    This is so hypersonic strike will cause the victim to hit fukushima to unleash the spectre of radioactive isotopes floating into the air and heading eastward.

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