The United States Air Force (USAF) launched an operational prototype of the Lockheed Martin AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) hypersonic missile for the first time.
The test took place off the Southern California coast on December 9, 2022, and involved the USAF’s 412th Test Wing, housed at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
After separating from the external pylon of its carrier aircraft, a B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber, the weapon reached hypersonic speeds greater than Mach 5 (over 6,000 kilometers per hour) before exploding upon impact with its target. The USAF reported that all the objectives set for the test were conclusive.
“The ARRW team successfully designed and tested an air-launched hypersonic missile in five years,” said Brigadier General Jason Bartolomei, Armament Directorate Program executive officer, in a statement released on December 12, 2022. “I am immensely proud of the tenacity and dedication this team has shown to provide a vital capability to our warfighter.”
AGM-183 ARRW is a boost-glide weapon, meaning that once the booster helps the warhead to reach its cruise speed, the warhead detaches and starts maneuvering towards the target, avoiding countermeasures.
Expected to fly at speeds of up to Mach 20 eventually, ARRW was designed to be carried by the F-15EX fighter jet as well as the USAF’s strategic bombers, greatly expanding their offensive capability.
The ARRW is scheduled to be operational by fall 2023. Hypersonic technology has become a priority of the United States military with the emergence of similar weapons in the arsenals of other world powers, such as Russia and China.