Military

US Air Force tests hypersonic missile on bomber flight

US Air Force tests hypersonic ...
Artist's concept of a hypersonic missile
Artist's concept of a hypersonic missile
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Artist's concept of a hypersonic missile
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Artist's concept of a hypersonic missile

The US Air Force's new hypersonic missile took to the air for the first time as an AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) went aloft on June 12th from Edwards Air Force Base, California. Strapped under the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress bomber, the engine-less prototype was not dropped, but was equipped with sensors to record drag and vibrations on the vehicle and the aircraft.

Hypersonic weapons have the potential to revolutionize 21st century warfare the way the jet engine did the 20th. However, operating at speeds in excess of Mach 5 (3,709 mph, 5,440 km/h) poses major engineering challenges. Because of this, development is not so much one of dramatic breakthroughs as a series of careful steps, though the Air Force is set on getting an operational hypersonic weapon as fast as possible.

In the test, the ARRW was not fuelled or armed. It's having to remain docked to the bomber wing may seem anti-climatic, but the Air Force says that such an environmental data flight is required for all new weapon systems. The ARRW is one of two hypersonic weapons being developed under Air Force contracts and is expected to go operational sometime in 2022 thanks to a rapid prototyping program by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Florida.

"We're using the rapid prototyping authorities provided by Congress to quickly bring hypersonic weapon capabilities to the warfighter," says Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. "We set out an aggressive schedule with ARRW. Getting to this flight test on time highlights the amazing work of our acquisition workforce and our partnership with Lockheed Martin and other industry partners."

Source: US Air Force

4 comments
Dr. Hujjatullah M.H.B. Sahib
In a climate of strategic peace being underpinned ultimately by nuclear deterrance and missiles air defenses is it wise to still squander further resources on developing hypersonic missiles and thereafter building air defences to address them too ? Why should the Post-Cold War peace dividend again be rewarding the MICs with fresh contracts when it could be better used for human and social developments and to promote all other sorts of progresses ?
noteugene
The 21st centuries concept of a catapult. Lets hope it's built in time for WWIII.
GregVoevodsky
When China and Russia are developing similar weapons (maybe Iran), I'd hope the USA would be on top. Like the A-Bomb, this will change everything as nothing can see for long or stop these upcoming weapons until new defenses are created with hair-trigger timings. You thought shooting down an ICBM was impossible in the 80s STAR WARS laughed the press, now we can. Hypersonic weapons take it to a whole new level of kinetic destruction in war. Who needs a bomb when this will destroy any ship or bunker under a mountain at Mach 5+? This is up there with new lasers coming to fighters, drones, and space weapons with little or no warning. They will have targetted precision and little collateral damage and deaths, unlike nukes. Think super smart, super fast and super deadly smart bombs - like a targeted asteroid or lightning strike.
ljaques
Yes, since other countries are perfecting these missiles, it is in our very best interest to develop them as well, both as a deterrence and defensive capability. Given the number of extremists (left, right, and religious) in the world today, and the antagonistic and invasive migration scenarios, it's even more important. A nation's largest potential enemy isn't necessarily the largest in size and might. As President Theodore Roosevelt said "Speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far." The "climate of strategic peace" is immersed between a pair of rising, bubbling hot-spots, both internal and external to the US. Peace, love, and indisputable self defense make a good trinity.