US Air Force Conducts Final Test of Troubled ARRW Hypersonic Missile

The US Air Force has conducted the final test of an air-launched hypersonic weapon the service previously said it would no longer pursue.

The test, which took place at the Reagan Test Site in the Marshall Islands, used a B-52H bomber aircraft to carry a fully operational prototype of the troubled Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW).

The trial was held to assess the end-to-end performance of the hypersonic weapon.

Although the US Air Force declined to say whether the final test was a success, it explained that it was able to gain “valuable insights” into the capabilities of the new weapon.

“While we won’t discuss specific test objectives, this test acquired valuable, unique data and was intended to further a range of hypersonic programs,” a spokesperson told reporters.

“We also validated and improved our test and evaluation capabilities for continued development of advanced hypersonic systems.”

Uncertain Future

In December 2022, the US Air Force announced that it successfully conducted the first all-up round test of the much-hyped ARRW.

It said the weapon safely separated from the aircraft, reached speeds greater than five times the speed of sound, completed its flight path, and detonated in the terminal area.

However, the service took a different tone when announcing the outcome of following tests, which were held in March, August, and October 2023.

US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall hinted that the March 2023 test was unsuccessful, jeopardizing the entire ARRW program.

Speculation about the unfavorable results grew when the service’s acquisition chief, Andrew Hunter, announced that the air force would no longer pursue development of the hypersonic missile.

He said the remaining funds for the program would only be used to finish all-up round tests and collect critical information that could help future hypersonic missile initiatives.

Another Hypersonic Program

In addition to the ARRW, the US Air Force has a hypersonic program called the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM).

It is smaller than Lockheed Martin’s ARRW, can fly along “vastly different trajectories,” and can be carried by more platforms, including fighter jets.

Kendall reportedly sounded more optimistic about the HACM, which has a proposed 2025 budget of $517 million.

Recent budget documents revealed that no procurement funds were requested for the ARRW.

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