Lockheed Martin
USAF Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon

USAF May Drop One Hypersonic Weapon Program

March 31, 2023
An unsuccessful test of Lockheed’s Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon has Air Force officials considering what went wrong - and whether to seek future funding for the high-speed defense technology.

The U.S. Air Force may be ending one of its high-profile development programs into hypersonic weapons technology, following a failed test earlier this month. The U.S. Air Force’s test of the Lockheed Martin-developed Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon on March 13 was “not a success” according to U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall in testimony to the U.S. House Appropriations Committee this week.

“We did not get the data that we needed from that test,” Kendall testified. “They’re currently examining that, trying to understand what happened.”

More, Kendall told the committee that presently the USAF is “more committed to HACM (the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile, a separate hypersonic weapon program) at this point in time than we are to ARRW.”

Another Air Force official, assistant secretary for Acquisition Andrew Hunter, testified to the U.S. House Armed Services subcommittee the USAF does not “currently intend to pursue follow-on procurement” of the ARRW after the completion of two more tests.

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 HACM is a hypersonic, air-launched cruise missile project being developed by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon Corp. “We see a definite role for the HACM concept,” according to Kendall. “It’s compatible with more of our aircraft, and it will give us more combat capability overall.”

He called HACM testing “reasonably successful.”

The specific nature of the failure of the ARRW test has not been revealed. The same system was tested twice previously in 2022, and those efforts were called successful by the USAF.

The U.S. Air Force 2023 budget for ARRW research and testing is $115 million, after $308 million was received for 2022. For 2024, it has requested a further $150 million for ARRW development in 2024.

The HACM budget requests are higher: $423 million has been issued for 2023 research into that system, and $382 million is its budget for 2024.

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