After the US defense department previously hinted that the first flight of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) would take place this week, the US Air Force said on Friday the flight was “expected in the next 30 days.”
The service did not elaborate on whether there were any setbacks in the plans, providing only an outline of the works that need to be completed before the flight can be completed.
Following delivery of the ARRW test missile to Edwards Air Force Base, California on March 1, and loading on a B-52H Stratofortress, immediate work began on pre-flight ground tests and checks to obtain certification for the flight to proceed as scheduled.
The ARRW booster test flight (BTF-1) that will take place within the next 30 days will demonstrate the booster’s ability to reach operational speeds and collect other important data. In addition to booster performance, the test vehicle will also validate safe separation and controllability of the missile away from the carrier B-52H, through ignition and boost phase, all the way up to separation of a simulated glide vehicle.
The simulated glider will not sustain flight, and will disintegrate soon after separation. The 412th Test Wing will conduct the ARRW BTF series over the Point Mugu Sea Range in California.
“The BTF-1 test vehicle is complete and is progressing through ground testing to verify its readiness for flight. 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,” said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, Air Force Program Executive Officer for Weapons.
“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.”
The Air Force designed the ARRW booster test vehicle to achieve the high speeds necessary to deliver the ARRW glide vehicle and embedded ordnance package to designated targets required by US combatant commanders.
The first flight of the booster will actually be the eighth flight test for the ARRW program. The previous seven were captive carriage flight tests.
The ARRW program is a rapid prototyping project to deliver a conventional hypersonic weapons capability to the warfighter in the early 2020s. The weapon system provides combatant commanders the capability to destroy high-value, time-sensitive targets. ARRW expands precision-strike weapon systems’ capabilities by enabling survivable rapid response strikes against heavily defended targets.