The U.S. Air Force conducted its third and final captive-carry flight test of the Lockheed Martin [LMT] AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) under the wing of a B-52H bomber off the southern California coast on Aug. 8 in preparation for the first planned booster flight test of ARRW later this year, according to an announcement by Edwards AFB, Calif.

The flight demonstrated the transmission of telemetry and GPS data from the AGM-183A Instrumented Measurement Vehicle-2 (IMV-2) to Point Mugu Sea Range ground stations and “verified system integration with the B-52 launch platform and telemetry while practicing concepts of operations that will be utilized during its first booster test flight later this year,” the Air Force said.

ARRW began with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Tactical Boost Glide demonstration system, which is to be integrated into the ARRW payload, per the service.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, the service’s Program Executive Officer for Weapons, called the flight test a milestone and said that “ARRW is the first step in bringing game-changing hypersonic capabilities to our warfighters.”

The ARRW boost-glide standoff weapon, which is to travel at speeds greater than Mach 5, is to be available in the early 2020s and to give combatant commanders the ability to destroy high-value, heavily defended, time-sensitive targets.

In February, the Air Force said that fiscal 2021 budget strictures caused it to discontinue its Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) effort with Lockheed Martin to focus on ARRW (Defense Daily, Feb. 10). The Air Force and Lockheed Martin have said that ARRW completed a Critical Design Review (CDR) earlier this year. In a recent phone interview, John Varley, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of Hypersonic and Strike Systems, said that “the Air Force, Lockheed Martin and our suppliers are on the same page, really dedicated to bringing this capability online and on time” and that, despite COVID-19, “we are on track” to perform “subsystem and system qualification and demonstration testing this year.”

The Air Force is pursuing a “high low mix”–ARRW for long-range missions and an air breathing hypersonic cruise missile for short and medium range missions.

On Aug. 5, the Air Force said that it determined that only Boeing‘s [BA] Phantom Works, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon [RTX] have the necessary qualifications for the air breathing effort for existing fighters and bombers, as the three “are the only firms that possess the necessary capability within the Air Force’s time frame without causing an unacceptable delay in meeting the needs of the warfighter.”

Contract awards are expected in the first quarter of fiscal 2021. Other vendors may receive contracts as well but must respond with their qualifications by Aug. 20.

In April, the Air Force released a solicitation (Defense Daily, April 29) for the airbreathing hypersonic cruise missile, which must feature sustained hypersonic propulsion with ramjet, scramjet, or dual-mode. The Preliminary Design Review is expected in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021.

Air Force Materiel Commander Gen. Arnold Bunch said recently that the Air Force has prioritized hypersonic research and development to continue at Arnold AFB, Tenn., Holloman AFB, N.M., Eglin AFB, Fla., and Edwards AFB, Calif. despite COVID-19 restrictions (Defense Daily, July 1).