A US Air Force (USAF) B-52H Stratofortress successfully released an AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, off the Southern California coast, May 14.
According to a USAF news release, following separation from the aircraft, the ARRW’s booster ignited and burned for expected duration, achieving hypersonic speeds five times greater than the speed of sound.
“This was a major accomplishment by the ARRW team, for the weapons enterprise, and our Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, Air Force Program Executive Officer for Weapons. “The team’s tenacity, expertise, and commitment were key in overcoming the past year’s challenges to get us to the recent success. We are ready to build on what we’ve learned and continue moving hypersonics forward.”
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.”
ARRW’s success comes after more than a year of setbacks for the program. The missile failed three booster flight tests in 2021.
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 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
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