The US Air Force (USAF) has confirmed that hypersonic missiles will not be bought in fiscal 2024. Instead, the USAF continues to focus on research and development of the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), which features a boost-glide hypersonic vehicle. The budget request for the upcoming fiscal year includes $150 million allocated to ARRW R&D.
According to Alert 5, aside from the ARRW, the request also includes $380 million for R&D on the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM), which is a scramjet-powered hypersonic weapon. In December 2021, Raytheon Technologies was awarded a $985 million contract to continue its HACM development.
According to Maj. Gen. Mike Greiner, the Air Force’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, discussions will also include a mix of weapons, as both ARRW and HACM are tailored to different types of platforms. The service will analyze the results of the tests and decide on the appropriate mix of hypersonic weapons for the USAF.
As reported by Defense One, hypersonic weapons can fly five times faster than the speed of sound and are highly maneuverable. The Pentagon wants to accelerate its production of these weapons because China and Russia are aggressively pursuing similar systems. Earlier this month, Russia hit Ukraine with hypersonic cruise missiles that Kyiv said it cannot intercept.
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 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.
The service plans four ARRW all-up-round flight tests in 2024, Greiner said.
Photo credit: Christopher Okula / U.S. Air Force
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