Finally: Air Force Successfully Tests a Hypersonic Weapon
The successful test followed three failed attempts, including failures in October and December of 2021.
After several failed hypersonic weapons tests, the Air Force finally successfully launched one.
According to an Air Force press release, the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, was launched using the B-52H Stratofortress on May 14.
Following the separation, the booster from the ARRW “ignited and burned for the expected duration, achieving hypersonic speeds five times greater than the speed of sound,” the Air Force release said.
“This was a major accomplishment by the ARRW team, for the weapons enterprise, and our Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, the Air Force’s program executive officer for weapons. “The team's tenacity, expertise, and commitment were key in overcoming the past year's challenges to get us to the recent success. We are ready to build on what we've learned and continue moving hypersonics forward.”
The test was carried out by the 419th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) and the Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force (GPB CTF).
"The test team made sure we executed this test flawlessly," Lt. Col. Michael Jungquist, 419th FLTS commander and GPB CTF director, said in the release. "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."
According to The War Zone, the successful test followed three failed attempts, including failures in October and December of 2021. Those setbacks led to some skepticism about the future viability of the hypersonic program. For instance, the headline for the CNN story about the most recent test referred to the ARRW as a “troubled hypersonic missile.”
Lockheed Martin also touted the successful launch in a press release of their own.
“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,” Dave Berganini, vice president of hypersonic and strike systems at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said in the announcement. “Our strong partnership with the U.S. Air Force has allowed us to quickly progress hypersonic technologies for our men and women in uniform.”
“The ARRW rapid prototyping program used Section 804 authorities provided by Congress to significantly accelerate the development and test of this system, without sacrificing engineering rigor,” added Marya Bard, U.S. Air Force ARRW program director.
“The tightly integrated Lockheed Martin and government team achieved speed with discipline by focusing on a common vision of providing combatant commanders a survivable rapid response strike capability as early as possible,” Bard said.
Lockheed said it would hold more tests of the ARRW system later this year.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.