The U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin [LMT] are to conduct the first booster flight test of the hypersonic AGM-183 Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) in the next 10 days, the Air Force acquisition office (SAF/AQ) said on Dec. 22.

The service is looking to begin ARRW production next year but is uncertain of the first production amounts, per SAF/AQ.

On Dec. 19, ARRW had its sixth instrumented measurement vehicle (IMV) flight test on a B-52H bomber from Edwards AFB, Calif. (Defense Daily, Dec. 21).

“The IMV testing program collects data for many different aspects of flight, including temperatures, vibration, and communications to-and-from the aircraft,” Lockheed Martin said on Dec. 22. “These results are cumulative and provide confidence that subsystems are mature and ready for the next phase of testing, which in the case of ARRW, will be booster flight testing.”

Challenges for hypersonic flight above 50,000 feet include equipping sensors and electronics to withstand the heat, friction, and air resistance created by hypersonic flight; developing advanced materials for such flight; maneuverability to overcome the defenses of adversaries; and continuous connectivity with operators and decision-makers.

Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper said recently that the service expects to begin production of ARRW next year to make it the first fielded hypersonic weapon in the U.S. military (Defense Daily, Dec. 15).

An IMV flight test in August marked the first assembly of a tactical ARRW missile, Lockheed Martin said.

The Air Force plans to field hypersonic platforms in the next decade, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, the former Pacific Air Forces Commander, told Congress that he wants to accelerate such efforts (Defense Daily, May 7).

The “game changing” characteristic of hypersonic weapons may be the relative ease and low cost of mating such weapons to hard points on bombers, rather than depending on basing rights or building new bases to launch strike aircraft, Roper has said.