The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has finally successfully test-launched a prototype of an AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon hypersonic missile, or ARRW.
The work on an air-launched hypersonic weapon started in 2018, and the USAF already tested the weapon three times back in 2021, but all three tests were considered failures for various reasons. Now, the ARRW overcame the past year’s challenges and was successfully dropped from a B-52H Stratofortress bomber over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California on May 14.
Following separation from the aircraft, the ARRW’s booster ignited and burned for the expected duration. The weapon was able to achieve hypersonic speeds five times greater than the speed of sound – Mach 5 (6,100 km/h) or greater.
The 419th Flight Test Squadron and the Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force, or GPB CTF, both at Edwards Air Force Base, California, executed the test.
“The test team made sure we executed this test flawlessly,” said Lt. Col. Michael Jungquist, 419th FLTS commander and GPB CTF director. “Our highly-skilled team made history on this first air-launched hypersonic weapon. We’re doing everything we can to get this game-changing weapon to the warfighter as soon as possible.”
Developed by Lockheed Martin, the ARRW missile is designed to enable the U.S. to hold fixed, high-value, time-sensitive targets at risk in contested environments from stand-off distances. It will also expand precision-strike capabilities by enabling rapid response strikes against heavily defended land targets. This type of weapon is characterized by its speed, high maneuverability, and trajectory, which make detection and interception by enemy missile defense systems difficult.
When fully prepared, the boost-glide weapon should be capable of reaching a maximum speed of more than Mach 20 by a rocket motor before gliding towards its target.