ARRW Hypersonic Missile Suffers Telemetry Failure
The US Air Force's (USAF) AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) program suffered a setback on March 13, 2023, when the second test launch of a fully operational prototype failed to transmit in-flight performance data.
The ARRW is a boost-glide hypersonic weapon that can travel at speeds above Mach 5 and maneuver unpredictably, making it hard to intercept by conventional defenses. The USAF is developing the ARRW as part of its efforts to achieve parity with China and Russia, which are reportedly investing heavily in hypersonic capabilities.
The ARRW program has been under development since 2018 and is led by Lockheed Martin Corp. The first test launch of an operational prototype took place on December 9, 2022, and was deemed successful by the USAF. However, the second test launch did not meet all the objectives, according to a statement released by the service on March 28.
USAF Secretary Frank Kendall told lawmakers on March 29 that the ARRW test "was not a success" and that the service did not get the data it needed from the flight. He said the USAF is still analyzing what went wrong and will decide the fate of the program next year, after conducting two more test launches with the remaining prototypes.
Kendall also indicated that the USAF is more committed to its other major hypersonic weapon program, the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM), which uses a scramjet engine to propel itself at high speeds. He said the HACM concept is compatible with more of the USAF's aircraft and will provide more combat capability overall.
The USAF's 2024 budget request does not include any money for procuring hypersonic missiles, but it continues to fund research and development for both ARRW and HACM, with $150 million for the former and $380 million for the latter.
Update: The Air Force has told congress they do not plan to acquire ARRW hypersonic missiles at this time.
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