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US Hypersonic Projects Progressing Fitfully

ARRW Test Success Follows Failure for Combined Army/Navy System

The US Air Force has announced a successful test of the Lockheed Martin-built AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), less than two weeks after the Army’s Dark Eagle long-range weapon suffered a second failed test.

The ARRW test was the 12th run by the programme, and the third demonstration involving release from an aircraft. The Air Force said that the weapon “reached hypersonic speeds and primary and secondary objectives [of the test flight] were met” during the 12 July mission.

This was another important milestone for the Air Force’s first air-launched hypersonic weapon,” said Brig Gen Heath Collins, armament directorate programme officer. “The test successfully demonstrated booster performance expanding the operational envelope. We have now completed our booster test series and are ready to move forward to all-up-round testing later this year.

However, DoD confirmed that a test of a common hypersonic weapon to be used by both the Army and the Navy had failed. The 29 June test was supposed to involve a glide body, attached to a booster rocket, launched from Kauai Island, HI. Details of the failed test are scant, though the failure involves the glide body – common to both the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike missile programme and the Army’s Dark Eagle programme – and its two-stage rocket booster. This was the second flight test in which the common body had failed.

DoD is investing heavily in hypersonic projects. It is running a National Hypersonic Initiative 2.0, which includes $2 billion to be spent on developing the industrial capabilities necessary to produce underlying hypersonic technologies, and to expand capacity of bench- and flight-testing. The Pentagon’s most recent five-year budget allocates some $25 billion to hypersonic weapon programmes.

The successful test of the USAF's ARRW saw the missile flown on this B-52, shown here in 2020. (US Air Force/Matt Williams)

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