“The Air Force prepares for its first booster test flight (BTF-1) of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), expected in the next 30 days,” the Air Force’s press release earlier in March said.
“The BTF-1 test vehicle is complete and is progressing through ground testing to verify its readiness for flight,” the March 5 statement from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Armament Directorate said. “The team has successfully dealt with COVID challenges and resolved technical findings not uncommon in a first-of-a-kind weapon system. We have minimized schedule delays while maintaining a laser focus on engineering rigor. Our first BTF will happen in the next 30 days, followed by several additional booster and all-up-round test flights by the end of the year,” Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, Air Force Program Executive Officer for Weapons, said in the announcement.
Now, another report indicates that the launch is getting closer.
According to The War Zone, recent alerts from the FAA indicate that the test is imminent. The U.S. Army’s missile range instrumentation ship USAV Worthy has arrived in San Diego, while NASA’s WB-57F aircraft has appeared at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, also in Southern California. Those are both the type of aircraft that would likely be necessary for use during such a test.
And then, on March 27, the FAA issued two Notices to Airmen alerts, letting them know about airspace restrictions near Point Mugu’s test range on March 30. The FAA then put out further notices about the same restrictions, for April 1, which is Thursday. Both dates are within the thirty-day timeframe from the March 5 statement.
“The block of restricted airspace described in the NOTAMs is what one would expect to see during a missile test and the existence of the second set of notices would seem to indicate an alternate test window should poor weather or any other issues force a delay,” the War Zone report said.
Reports indicated last summer that the Air Force was getting ready to equip jets with hypersonic missiles. The AGM-183A missiles were built by Lockheed, and as of last June, the Air Force had planned to purchase eight prototypes.
The first test, per The War Zone, was originally supposed to take place by the end of December, and after that in early March, but they were delayed, due to both the coronavirus pandemic and unspecified technical issues.
A report last week by the Government Accountability Office stated that the government is working on seventy different efforts to develop hypersonic weapons, at a cost of $15 billion, from fiscal years 2015 through 2024.
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. Image: Reuters.