The first full test of the AGM-183 hypersonic missile recently launched from a B-52 and it was a direct hit! The AMG-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) carried a warhead and reached speeds in excess of Mach 5 before successfully hitting its target. ARRW will hold fixed, high value, time-sensitive targets at risk in contested environments. Joseph Trevithick of the War Zone writes (abridged):
The U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin say that they have conducted the first successful end-to-end test of a complete prototype of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW. The service says that the missile successfully released its unpowered hypersonic boost-glide vehicle payload, which carried a live warhead and reached speeds in excess of Mach 5 before hitting a designated target area. This is a major accomplishment for a program that saw its initial live-fire flight testing last year marred by difficulties, which called its future into question.
The test occurred on December 9, with a B-52H bomber assigned to the 412th Test Wing launching the prototype ARRW off the coast of Southern California, according to a press release the Air Force issued today. This is the first time a so-called AGM-183A all-up round (AUR) has been live-fired in testing.
The Air Force has previously conducted a number of live-fire ARRW AGM-183A tests, but these were all focused on demonstrating the performance of the weapon’s rocket booster. The first successful booster test occurred in May. That followed two failed tests and another mis-launch that the service characterized as a partial success based on the still-useful data obtained. […]
As designed, the AGM-183A uses its rocket booster to propel the complete missile to an optimal speed and altitude, after which its nose cone separates and a boost-glide vehicle is released. Unlike a traditional ballistic missile, that unpowered vehicle then flies along a relatively shallow, atmospheric flight path to its target at hypersonic speeds, defined as anything above Mach 5.
The boost-glide vehicle is designed to have a high degree of maneuverability, giving it the ability to make erratic course changes along its route. This, together with its very high speed, presents significant challenges for opponents when it comes to detecting or tracking the incoming weapon. This, in turn, makes it very difficult for an enemy to react effectively, either in terms of attempting to intercept the vehicle or simply trying to relocate assets or take cover. Hypersonic weapons are very challenging to intercept due to their speed and atmospheric flight profile to begin with. […]
Details about the explosive warhead that ARRW’s boost-glide vehicle carries are limited. However, past reports have indicated that it is an advanced blast-fragmentation type intended to leverage the weapon’s high speed to create an especially effective hail of shrapnel.
The test last Friday is an important step forward for the ARRW program.
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