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US Air Force detonates ARRW warhead in latest test of the hypersonic weapon

ARRW hypersonic weapon
Illustration: A Lockheed Martin graphic of a B-52 launching an AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW)

The US Air Force has revealed that the Eglin-based 780th Test Squadron successfully detonated an AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon warhead for the first time.

The first-of-its-kind test for the air-to-ground, rocket-powered, high-altitude, hypersonic missile collected data on the lethality of the unique weapon.

The warhead test comes as the service is trying to carry out a successful flight of the missile’s booster. The first flight of the ARRW had initially been expected to take place by the end of 2020.

Another attempt to launch the ARRW is set for later this month.

Prior to the upcoming attempt, the service detonated the prototype warhead in a test that involved many firsts, according to the test’s manager, David Spiker 780th TS.

Some of the firsts were the new and unorthodox design and construction of the test arena, the test procedures and equipment, the warhead’s fragmentation data collecting and the post-test data processing to ensure the warhead’s effects have been accurately characterized.

The ARRW program is a rapid prototyping project aimed at delivering a conventional hypersonic weapons capability in the early 2020s. The service previously said the objective was to achieve early operational capability with the ARRW before Fiscal Year 2023.

ARRW is designed to provide combatant commanders the capability to destroy high-value, time-sensitive targets. It will also expand precision-strike weapon systems’ capabilities by enabling rapid response strikes against heavily defended land targets.

Earlier this year, the air force demonstrated a simulated kill chain employment from sensor to shooter and back with the AGM-183A during exercise Northern Edge.