B-52 crews prepare for hypersonic weapons deployment at Andersen AFB

U.S. Air Force photo

B-52 Stratofortress crews from the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron and 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron recently engaged in hypersonic weapon familiarization training at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. 

During the training session held on February 27, 2024, the crews underwent academic and practical training on hypersonic fundamentals and participated in tactical discussions related to hypersonic operations.  

Andersen Air Force Base said the training was aimed at preparing multiple US Air Force aircraft communities for hypersonic weapons under development, specifically the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) and the Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW).  

Is the AGM-183 ARRW hypersonic missile making a comeback? 

The mention of the latter raises questions as, in March 2023, the decision was made to discontinue the procurement of the AGM-183 ARRW after it faced setbacks and multiple failed tests.  

Yet a picture accompanying the press release shows B-52 Stratofortress crews from the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, and the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, examining an AGM-183A AARW fitted on the external pylon of a B-52H bomber.  

U.S. Air Force photo

The presence of a yellow ring on the AGM-183A missile indicates the presence of a live warhead. Additionally, recent public notices to aviators and mariners in the region noticed by The War Zone suggest the possibility of an imminent live-fire ARRW missile test. 

Developed by Lockheed Martin, the AGM-183 ARRW is a boost-glide weapon. Once the booster helps the warhead reach its cruise speed, the warhead detaches and starts maneuvering toward the target, avoiding countermeasures.  

Although further tests were not excluded upon the announcement of its cancellation, the live fire conducted in a strategic location near China, coupled with the statement’s phrasing, suggests that ARRW may still have an operational future. 

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