On Apr. 5, 2021 the US Air Force (USAF) had a 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 Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (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 has been pushing boundaries since its inception and taking calculated risks to move this important capability forward. While not launching was disappointing, the recent test provided invaluable information to learn from and continue ahead. This is why we test,” said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, Armament Directorate Program Executive Officer, in Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Armament Directorate News Release.
This would have been the eighth flight test for the ARRW program following seven captive carriage missions. Objectives for the test included demonstrating the safe release of the booster test vehicle from the B-52H as well as assessing booster performance, booster-shroud separation, and simulated glider separation. The 419th Flight Test Squadron and the Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force, both here, were involved in the testing. Since the vehicle was retained, engineers and testers will be able to explore the defect and return the vehicle back to test.
The ARRW arrived to Edwards via truck on Mar. 1, and immediately went into ground test and checks. As reported by Air Force Magazine, according to USAF officials originally said the booster flight test would happen in December 2020, a date that was pushed to Mar. 1 and then to early April.
The ARRW program aims to deliver a conventional hypersonic weapons capability to the warfighter in the early 2020s. The weapon system is designed to provide the ability 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: Mike Tsukamoto/staff; Lockheed Martin; USAF
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