The U.S. military test launched its hypersonic missile prototype, the very first operational test of the weapon.
According to reports, the missile, known as the AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), was carried on a B-52 Stratofortress aircraft on 12 June at Edwards Air Force Base. A sensor-only version of the ARRW prototype was carried externally by the B-52 during the test to gather environmental and aircraft handling data.
In August 2018, the Air Force awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control to develop the hypersonic missile. The fact that the U.S. military already test launched its hypersonic missile prototype shows the high-priority status of hypersonic weapons for America’s armed forces. “We’re using the rapid prototyping authorities provided by Congress to quickly bring hypersonic weapon capabilities to the warfighter,” Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a statement. “This type of speed in our acquisition system is essential—it allows us to field capabilities rapidly to compete against the threats we face.”
Indeed, the test highlights the urgency of the military to acquire these weapons and to maintain an edge in all areas of hypersonic technology—including defending against it. Hypersonic weapons are a key research and development area because of the ongoing arms race with the other great power rivals, Russia and China. Hypersonics are particularly deadly because of their high speeds (in excess of Mach 5) and their maneuverability, which gives them the ability to evade most modern missile defense systems.