Weapons

AGM-183A ARRW Falls Short in Second Test but the USAF isn’t saying what went wrong with the Lockheed Martin-built hypersonic missile

The second All-Up-Round AGM-183A ARRW flight fell short of a fully successful test but the USAF isn’t saying what went wrong with the Lockheed Martin-built hypersonic missile.

A B-52H Stratofortress belonging to the 412th Test Wing at Edwards AFB, California, released the second All-Up-Round AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) off the southern California coast on Mar. 13, 2023.

Nevertheless, as reported by Air & Space Forces Magazines, this all-up flight fell short of a fully successful test, but the US Air Force (USAF) isn’t saying what went wrong with the Lockheed Martin-built hypersonic missile. The defense giant’s Missiles and Fire Control division recently said the ARRW is “ready to go” into production at scale.

According to a USAF news release “This test was the second launch of a full prototype operational hypersonic missile and focused on the ARRW’s end-to-end performance [from captive carry through launch, booster ignition, shroud separation, and hypersonic body glide to impact]. The test met several of the objectives and the ARRW team engineers and testers are collecting data for further analysis.”

The USAF declined to provide further details, citing operational security.

After program delays and three failed tests in 2021, the ARRW program notched two successful tests last year, clearing the way for all-up-round testing.

On Apr. 5, 2021 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. Then on Jul. 28, 2021 after the missile cleanly separated from the B-52H aircraft, it failed to fire its booster and once again did not separate from the plane in December 2021.

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The ARRW was successfully released by a B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber for the first time on May 14, 2022 and a second successful test was conducted on Jul. 12.

The ARRW flew a third a successful test on Dec. 9, 2022. The December test was “the first launch of a full prototype operational missile” in the program, the 86th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. said in announcing the event. That missile completed the test and “detonated in the target area.”

As already reported, the USAF has said that will continue to focus on research and development of the ARRW in fiscal 2024. The budget request for the upcoming fiscal year includes $150 million allocated to ARRW R&D.

According to Maj. Gen. Mike Greiner, the Air Force’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, the service plans four ARRW all-up-round flight tests in 2024.

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control vice president for air dominance and strike weapons, Jay Pitman told reporters at the AFA Warfare Symposium on March 7 that “we believe we are ready to go … and to support production should that decision be made.” Pitman said Lockheed has demonstrated to the Air Force that it can produce the ARRW “at scale” with the “potential to do dozens upon dozens of these on a yearly basis.”

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.

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Photo credit: Mike Tsukamoto/staff; Lockheed Martin; USAF

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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