After three failed attempts over the last year, the US Air Force’s AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) has finally completed a successful flight test.
A B-52H Stratofortress successfully released the weapon off the Southern California coast on May 14.
Following separation from the aircraft, the ARRW’s booster ignited and burned for expected duration, achieving hypersonic speeds five times greater than the speed of sound, the air force said.
“This was a major accomplishment by the ARRW team, for the weapons enterprise, and our Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, Air Force 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 419th Flight Test Squadron and the Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force, or GPB CTF, both at Edwards Air Force Base, California, executed the test.
“The test team made sure we executed this test flawlessly,” said Lt. Col. Michael Jungquist, 419th FLTS commander and GPB CTF director. “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.”
ARRW is designed to enable the US to hold fixed, high-value, time-sensitive targets at risk in contested environments from stand-off distances. It will also expand precision-strike capabilities by enabling rapid response strikes against heavily defended land targets.
The US Air Force expected conventional hypersonic weapons capability in the early 2020s, but it is unclear how, or if, earlier failures in the flight testing will affect the timeline.
The service hoped to buy first ARRW missiles with a request of $161 million for the program in its fiscal year 22 budget request. However, appropriators reduced the amount of money for the program by about $80 million. The spending bill documents stated the no procurement funds were being provided in this act, as “recent failures and delays in testing” had extended the ARRW program schedule and put a first production lot contract at risk for award in fiscal year 2022.
The remaining $80 million would ensure funds for the ARRW testing program and mitigate a projected funding shortfall, the documents further said.