US Air Force Launches Hypersonic Air-To-Ground Missile Prototype In First Successful Test

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The United States Air Force has successfully tested the first All-Up-Round AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW). The test took place off the coast of California on December 9, 2022.

Eglin Air Force Base announced in a recent tweet that a B-52H Stratofortress had successfully tested the first launch of a full prototype operational missile. Previous tests on the weapon were focused on proving the booster performance. A statement released on the base's website indicated, "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." All signs pointed to all objectives of the test being met.

"The ARRW team successfully designed and tested an air-launched hypersonic missile in five years," remarked Brig. Gen. Jason Bartolomei, Armament Directorate Program Executive Officer. "I am immensely proud of the tenacity and dedication this team has shown to provide a vital capability to our warfighter."

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Image taken by Airman First Class Duncan Bevan

The test was carried out by the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The prototype hypersonic missile was released from a B-52H Stratofortress bomber, according to the test wing. Hypersonic weapons are capable of traveling at speeds greater than Mach 5 and maneuvering mid-flight, making them much more difficult to track and shoot down than conventional ballistic missiles. The U.S. has been facing pressure to develop its own hypersonic weapons, as Russia and China have invested heavily in the development of their own.

The recent success comes as good news for the ARRW, as it suffered three straight test failures in 2021. All three failures stemmed from problems during the launch process. The streak was broken in May, with a successful test of the ARRW's booster performance.

Andrew Hunter, Assistant Air Force Secretary of Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics informed reporters in July that the future of ARRW was solely dependent on how well the weapon performed. Hunter stated, "Obviously, you wouldn't buy something that doesn't work. But even if it does work, it's got to be the right contribution to the overall weapons mix and the highest priority targets. That's what's driving [Air Force] decision-making."

Top Image taken by Senior Airman Michael Richmond