The United States has lagged behind Russia in its development of hypersonic weapons – but this month, it appears that the U.S. efforts are on track and are quickly closing the gap. On Friday, the United States Air Force carried out a successful test of its complete Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW).
A B-52H Stratofortress successfully released the All-Up-Round AGM-183A ARRW off the Southern California coast – the first launch of a full prototype operational missile. According to the Air Force, previous test events focused on proving the booster performance. The 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California, executed the ARRW test flight.
Straight and Level
The AGM-183A successfully completed its separation from the aircraft and reached hypersonic speeds greater than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), completed its flight path, and detonated in the terminal area. Indications also showed that all objectives were met on the Dec. 9 test flight.
“The ARRW team successfully designed and tested an air-launched hypersonic missile in five years,” said Brig. Gen. Jason Bartolomei, armament directorate program executive officer. “I am immensely proud of the tenacity and dedication this team has shown to provide a vital capability to our warfighter.”
ARRW was designed to enable the U.S. to hold fixed, high-value, time-sensitive targets at risk in contested environments.
“This successful test is a result of the commitment, rigor, and dedication of the joint U.S. Government and Lockheed Martin team to develop hypersonic weapons on accelerated timelines to meet critical national security needs,” said Jay Pitman, vice president of air dominance and strike weapons at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, in an email to 19FortyFive.
“We are proud to partner with the U.S. Air Force on ARRW, and with this test, we are on the cusp of an operational capability that can be deployed to the men and women in uniform,” Pitman added.
Prior to this event, the ARRW team achieved significant progress on the program through captive carriage flights, sled testing, warhead qualification, solid rocket motor qualification, and two consecutive hypersonic-boosted flight tests.
Full Speed Ahead
This month’s successful test is a major step forward for a program that has had a number of setbacks, notably a series of failures in testing last year that forced the Air Force to delay the project. Air Force official officials have described those failures as “anomalies.”
However, the Pentagon has placed an increased emphasis on the testing and developing of hypersonic weapons due to fears that China and Russia have shown such rapid advancement of their respective programs.
The ARRW will continue to conduct live-fire testing, and the program will subsequently be considered for rapid production. The AGM-183 ARRW is currently scheduled to be operational as early as next fall.
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.