Air Force's Hypersonic Weapon Hits 'Major Milestone' in New Test

A B-52H Stratofortress undergoes pre-flight procedures at Edwards Air Force Base.
A B-52H Stratofortress undergoes pre-flight procedures at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Aug. 8, 2020. The aircraft conducted a captive-carry flight test of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon Instrumented Measurement Vehicle 2. (U.S. Air Force/Giancarlo Casem)

The Air Force moved one step closer to a hypersonic weapon last week, with the final captive-carry test of the Lockheed Martin AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW.

A B-52H Stratofortress conducted the test Aug. 8 at Edwards Air Force Base, California, according to a release from the 412th Test Wing.

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Hypersonic weapons will move at five times the speed of sound, and the Pentagon is engaged in a global race to develop them.

The test, by the 419th Flight Test Squadron and Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force, successfully transmitted telemetry and GPS data from the AGM-183A IMV-2 (Instrumented Measurement Vehicle) to the Navy's Point Mugu Sea Range ground stations on the California coast, the release adds.

The test also verified system integration with the B-52 launch platform and telemetry, and practiced concepts of operations that will be conducted during its first Booster Test Flight later this year, it states.

"This is a major milestone for the program, the team and our Air Force," Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, Air Force Program Executive Officer for Weapons, said in a statement. "ARRW is the first step in bringing game-changing hypersonic capabilities to our Warfighters."

Last June, the Air Force took a major step forward with the ARRW with its first test flight on the B-52 at Edwards Air Force Base, California. That flight was intended to gather information on "drag and vibration impact," officials said at the time.

The ARRW program, pronounced "arrow," aims to develop a hypersonic weapon for the Air Force in the first part of this decade through rapid prototyping. Having an operational hypersonic weapon will give commanders the capability to destroy high-value targets with urgency by amplifying the speed, range, flexibility and precision of airpower, the release adds.

"The event this week demonstrated the ability to communicate with the prototype weapon; the entire team is excited to take the next step and begin energetic flight test of our first air-launched hypersonic weapons," Lt. Col. Michael Jungquist, 419th FLTS commander and Global Power Bomber CTF director, said in a statement. "These weapons will enable application of conventional firepower anywhere in the world at eye-watering speed."

The Air Force launched the ARRW program in 2017 with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) demonstration system, which will be integrated into the ARRW payload. The Air Force announced it successfully completed the first captive-carry test on June 12, 2019.

The AGM-183A completed a preliminary design review in March 2019, according to Lockheed Martin. More ground and flight testing will be conducted by 2021.

"I am very pleased with the work on the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon and what this means for global precision-fires," Gen. Tim Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, said in a statement. "This capability will directly support our warfighters. Hypersonic weapons further enable the U.S. to hold any target at risk in any environment anywhere."

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