The U.S. Air Force conducted the first in-flight test with the hypersonic missile AGM-183A also known as the Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW).
A prototype equipped only with sensors was transported by a B-52 bomber that took off from Edwards Air Base, in California, on June 12. The weapon had no explosives and was not launched by the aircraft since the purpose of the first flight was to test the impact of vibrations and drag on the missile itself and the external carriage equipment.
“We are using the rapid prototyping techniques provided by Congress to quickly bring hypersonic weapon capabilities to the warfighter,” said Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. “We set out an aggressive schedule with ARRW. Getting to this flight test on time highlights the amazing work of our acquisition workforce and our partnership with Lockheed Martin and other industry partners.”
The US government has two programs to develop a hypersonic weapon, the ARRW and the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon, both contracted with Lockheed Martin.
The concept, while varying in some stages of launch, envisions a missile capable of flying at Mach 5 and penetrating enemy defenses without being able to detect it and destroy it before impact.
The US is using financial resources that do not require long bureaucratic processes to accelerate the program. The reason is that Russia has advanced in its hypersonic missile projects just as China does the same.
In February, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin confirmed that the country is developing the Tsirkon cruise missile that will be able to fly the Mach 9 at a distance of 620 miles. Last month, Putin inspected a MiG-31 fighter armed with the Kinzhal missile that would have the ability to fly at Mach 12 and which would already be operational, although the US is skepticals about it.
The US program, for its part, has a more realistic deadline. The objective is for the new one to be operational from fiscal year 2022.