A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress test-launched a hypersonic weapon off the Southern California coast last week.
The AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) separated from the aircraft during the test, followed by ignition and burning of the booster “for expected duration,” achieving over five times the speed of sound (at least 3,800 miles/6,100 kilometers per hour), the service stated.
The successful test comes on of three reported failures. The prototype failed to detach from the aircraft for an “unknown” reason during a test in December. In July, the rocket engine failed to ignite after release from the aircraft.
In its inaugural test in April, the aircraft carrying the missile developed some issues, The Warzone revealed.
To Strike Heavily Defended Targets
Squadron commander Lt. Col. Michael Jungquist said, “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.”
The missile uses a boost-glide system wherein a rocket propels the projectile to a reported speed of up to 15,345 miles (24,695 kilometers) an hour and then allows it to glide toward the target.
The air force and Lockheed Martin have been developing the missile for over three years to arm the service with the ability to strike heavily defended “high value, time-sensitive” targets from stand-off range.
The USAF opted for the program over the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) program after being asked to choose between the two over budgetary constraints.
Chosen Over Other Hypersonic Program
The service reportedly chose the ARRW over the HCSW as the former had a “unique glide body design” compared to a more conventionally designed HCSW.
Moreover, the AEEW’s smaller size allows it to be fitted in greater numbers on an aircraft than the HCSW, Air Force Magazine reported, citing service acquisition chief Will Roper.
“The reason we went with ARRW was not that HCSW was bad, but ARRW is smaller; we can carry twice as many on the B-52, and it’s possible it could be on the F-15. It’s in the class to be able to fit on the centerline station,” Roper explained at the AFA Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida.
The service is reportedly considering equipping its B-52H and B-1 Lancer strategic bombers with the weapon.