The U.S. Air Force 412th Test Wing at Edwards AFB, Calif., conducted the first all-up-round test of a prototype Lockheed Martin [LMT] AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) on Dec. 9 from a B-52H bomber off the southern California coast, Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) said on Dec. 12.
“Following the ARRW’s separation from the aircraft, it reached hypersonic speeds greater than five times the speed of sound, completed its flight path and detonated in the terminal area,” AFMC said. “Indications show that all objectives were met.”
DoD research chief Heidi Shyu said in October that hypersonic weapons are just one “arrow” in the Pentagon’s quiver against high technology adversaries–China and Russia–while Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), on the other hand, has said that he believes that the United States needs to achieve “hypersonic parity” with China–not necessarily in the fielded number of hypersonic systems, but in the industrial capacity to build them (Defense Daily, Oct. 18).
Lamborn is the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committe’s strategic forces panel and is set to become the panel chairman next month.
AFMC acknowledged the niche ARRW may occupy in the command’s Dec. 12 statement on the first ARRW all-up-round test.
“ARRW is designed to enable the U.S. to hold fixed, high-value, time-sensitive targets at risk in contested environments,” AFMC said.
Shyu’s comments in October echo those of U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, who has said that hypersonics are not “a magic solution to our problems” (Defense Daily, Sept. 22).
“In fact, it’s difficult with hypersonics to engage some of the moving targets we want to engage, but they have a place in our inventory, and we’re gonna get them there,” Kendall said. “We’re not trying to duplicate or keep up with the Chinese and mirror image what they’re doing. We’re trying to do what we need for our objectives militarily.”
Kendall has said that air-breathing hypersonic missile designs, such as the future Raytheon Technologies [RTX] Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM), using scramjet engines, have shown more promise thus far for the U.S. than hypersonic glide vehicles, like ARRW.
But the ARRW prototype, in addition to the Dec. 9 all-up-round test, has had two booster flights this year after three aborted attempts last year.
On Sept. 22, the Air Force awarded Raytheon Missiles and Defense in Tucson, Ariz., a $985 million contract for HACM. Raytheon beat out Lockheed Martin and Boeing [BA] for the award.
The fiscal 2023 House-Senate conference report on the defense authorization bill calls on the Secretary of the Air Force to upgrade testing facilities to support hypersonic development within two years of starting such improvements.