The U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin reported a successful test flight of a new USAF hypersonic missile – the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) – carried out by a B-52H Stratofortress off the California coast. The USAF reported that 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.
According to Lockheed, the flight demonstrated the weapon’s ability to reach and withstand operational hypersonic speeds, collect crucial data for use in further flight tests, and validate safe separation from the aircraft to deliver the glide body and warhead to designated targets from significant standoff distances.
Hypersonic weapons are among the U.S. Dept. of Defense’s top developmental priorities, along with establishing secure domestic supply base. They are high speed (Mach 5 or above) weapons that travel at suborbital heights, making them difficult for air-defense systems to track and intercept due to their speed and maneuverability.
The ARRW is designed to target “fixed, high-value, time-sensitive targets” in contested environments from stand-off distances, according to the USAF. It also will expand precision-strike capabilities by enabling rapid response strikes against heavily defended land targets.
“The need for hypersonic strike capabilities is critical to our nation and this successful test will help us to maintain an accelerated and rigorous timeline,” stated Dave Berganini, v.p. of Hypersonic and Strike Systems at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.
Additional test flights of the ARRW will continue throughout 2022, before reaching Early Operational Capability (EOC) in 2023, according to the USAF.
Chinese and Russian defense forces have recently demonstrated hypersonic weapons – including one used by Russia in its current war against Ukraine.
In May 2021, Lockheed along with Northrop Grumman conducted a live-fire hypersonic strike test system, and in October the company announced a new manufacturing plant for hypersonic missile systems in Courtland, Ala.
Last month, a Lockheed Martin-led team that included DARPA and AFRL conducted a successful flight test of a hypersonic weapon concept, achieving speeds above Mach 5 and altitudes higher than 65,000 feet.