by WorldTribune Staff, June 19, 2019
The U.S. Air Force reported a successful initial flight test of a B-52 Stratofortress armed with the AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), a hypersonic missile which can fly at speeds of Mach 5 or faster.
The test of the Lockheed Martin-produced weapon was conducted on June 12 at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
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“This captive-carry flight is the most recent step in the U.S. Air Force’s rapid prototyping effort to mature the hypersonic weapon, AGM-183A, which successfully completed a preliminary design review in March,” Lockheed officials said in a press release. “More ground and flight testing will follow over the next three years.”
Pentagon officials said earlier this year that they fear the U.S. may be lagging behind Russia and China in hypersonic technology.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has boasted that Moscow is developing hypersonic missiles which will render U.S. military defenses “useless.”
“We know for certain, it’s an obvious fact and our colleagues realize it, that we surpassed all our competitors in this area,” Putin said in December 2018. “Nobody has precise hypersonic weapons. Some plan to test theirs in 18 to 24 months. We have them in service already.”
Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Dr. Will Roper said the Pentagon has “set out an aggressive schedule with the ARRW. We’re using the rapid prototyping authorities provided by U.S. Congress to quickly bring hypersonic weapon capabilities to the warfighter. 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.”
Roper added: “This type of speed in our acquisition system is essential – it allows us to field capabilities rapidly to compete against the threats we face.”
The June 12 test was aimed to gather data on “drag and vibration impact” to the hypersonic weapon as well as the performance of the carriage bay on the B-52 aircraft, the Air Force said.
B-52s are the largest bombers in the arsenal of the U.S. and are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Boeing Co., manufacturer of the B-52, said the recent test shows that the Cold War-era bomber can operate for years to come despite its age.
“This recent success put the [Air Force] well on its way to the live-launch testing of an extraordinary weapon soon,” Scot Oathout, director of bomber programs at Boeing, said in a statement. “The future B-52, upgraded with game-changing global strike capability, such as ARRW, and crucial modernizations like a new radar and new engines, is an essential part of the [Air Force’s] Bomber Vector vision through at least 2050.”