Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) chief Gen. Timothy Ray told Air Force Magazine that he wants to have a squadron of modified B-1B bombers that can carry the AGM-183 Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) hypersonic missile on external hardpoints.
Ray said he sees a conventional version of the Long-Range Stand-Off (LRSO) weapon as a sensible approach to replacing the conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missile (CALCM) if a weapon with longer range than the JASSM-ER is required.
The B-1B has eight external hardpoints that were designed to carry the AGM-86B Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM). These hardpoints were covered up except for one on the port side for the Sniper pod.
Ray, in an interview that will appear in the May issue of Air Force Magazine, said he wants to refurbish and modernize the remaining B-1B aircraft after the Air Force retires 17 airframes from the fleet.
“My goal would be to bring on at least a squadron’s worth of airplanes modified with external pylons on the B-1, to carry the ARRW hypersonic cruise missile,” Ray was quoted as saying.
A B-1 squadron typically has 18 aircraft.
An expanded carriage demonstration on the B-1B was carried out by the 412th Test Wing last year. Maintainers were able to separate the bulkhead of the front and intermediate weapons bay to create one bay long enough to carry hypersonic weapons.
Modifying the B-1s to carry the ARRW was not an item requested in the fiscal 2021 budget, Ray said, but it’s “a project we’re working on. There are several versions that we could contemplate, but we believe the easiest, fastest, and probably most effective in the short term will be to go with the external pylons.” The ARRW, he said, is “a good weapon airframe and configuration match to get us quickly into that game.”
Asked if AFGSC’s preference is for ARRW versus other hypersonic missiles, Ray said, “I think we’re going to commit to the ARRW, because I think our carriage capability is good for that.”
He added that the B-1B test fleet at Edwards Air Force Base will be increased from two to eight aircraft to take some of the “load off the B-52” in hypersonic missile testing.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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