A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress successfully released an AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, off the Southern California coast, May 14, 2022.
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 successful flight demonstrates the weapon’s ability to reach and withstand operational hypersonic speeds, collect crucial data for use in further flight tests, and validate safe separation from the aircraft to deliver the glide body and warhead to designated targets from significant standoff distances.
“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, both at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and Lockheed Martin 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.”
Additional booster and all-up-round test flights will continue throughout 2022, before reaching Early Operational Capability (EOC) in 2023.
“The ARRW rapid prototyping program used Section 804 authorities provided by Congress to significantly accelerate the development and test of this system, without sacrificing engineering rigor,” said Marya Bard, U.S. Air Force ARRW program director. “The tightly integrated Lockheed Martin and government team achieved speed with discipline by focusing on a common vision of providing combatant commanders a survivable rapid response strike capability as early as possible.”
Hypersonic weapons provide a rapid response, time critical capability to overcome distance in contested environments using high speed, altitude and maneuverability.
Hypersonic technology has continued to present several complex engineering challenges. Going Mach 5, sometimes even faster, generates extreme levels of heat, driving the need for innovative materials, sensors and electronics to withstand such speeds throughout its journey. In addition to heat, these systems must be able to maintain consistent communication connections, as well as considerable intelligence to perform precise maneuverability techniques to overcome a wide range of advanced defense systems and extreme contested environments.
“The need for hypersonic strike capabilities is critical to our nation and this successful test will help us to maintain an accelerated and rigorous timeline,” said Dave Berganini, vice president of Hypersonic and Strike Systems at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “Our strong partnership with the U.S. Air Force has allowed us to quickly progress hypersonic technologies for our men and women in uniform.”
ARRW is designed to enable the U.S. 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.