While it did not meet all flight objectives, the AGM-183 ARRW test demonstrated several first-time events as the program continues to track toward fielding a hypersonic capability in the early 2020s.
The US Air Force (USAF) conducted its second AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) booster flight test July 28.
According to a news release by Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Armament Directorate, while it did not meet all flight objectives, the test demonstrated several first-time events as the program continues to track toward fielding a hypersonic capability in the early 2020s.
Objectives for the test included demonstrating the safe release of the booster test vehicle from the B- 52H and assessing booster performance. An Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) B-52 released the ARRW test missile, dubbed Booster Test Vehicle 1b or BTV-1b, over Point Mugu Sea Range.
The missile cleanly separated from the aircraft and successfully demonstrated the full release sequence including GPS acquisition, umbilical disconnect and power transfer from the aircraft to the missile. The missile also demonstrated fin operation and de-confliction maneuvers which ensures a safe operation for the aircrew.
Following the safe separation maneuvers, the rocket motor did not ignite. 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.
“Developing first-of-its-kind missiles is difficult business and this why we test,” said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, the Air Force Program Executive Officer for Weapons. “This is a critical capability for our Air Force and we have the very best team working to figure out what happened, fix it and move out to deliver ARRW to our warfighters as quickly as possible.”
The Edwards-based 419th Flight Test Squadron and the Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force were involved in the testing.
On Apr. 5, 2021 the USAF had a first setback in demonstrating its progress in hypersonic weapons when its first booster vehicle flight test encountered an issue on the aircraft and did not launch.
A B-52H Stratofortress took off over the Point Mugu Sea Range intending to fire the first booster test vehicle for the AGM-183A ARRW program. Instead, the test missile was not able to complete its launch sequence and was safely retained on the aircraft which returned here.
The ARRW program is a rapid prototyping project aimed at delivering a conventional hypersonic weapons capability to the warfighter in the early 2020s. The weapon system is designed to provide combatant commanders the capability to destroy high-value, time-sensitive targets (it is intended to travel 500 miles in just 10 minutes once fired from a B-52 bomber. That’s 3,000 mph, versus about 500 mph for a conventional weapon). It will also expand precision-strike weapon systems’ capabilities by enabling rapid response strikes against heavily defended land targets.
Photo credit: Christopher Okula / U.S. Air Force