The Air Force successfully tested a Lockheed Martin hypersonic missile this week amid growing concerns Russia and China have had more success developing their own hypersonic weapons.
The Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon was launched from a B-52H bomber off the California coast on Tuesday. It was the second successful test of the weapon’s booster rocket.
“This second successful test demonstrates ARRW’s ability to reach and withstand operational hypersonic speeds, collect crucial data for use in further flight tests, and validate safe separation from the aircraft,” Lockheed said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We have now completed our booster test series and are ready to move forward to all-up-round testing later this year,” said Air Force Brigadier General Heath Collins, the hypersonic program’s executive officer.
The “all-up-round” testing includes the booster and the warhead.
Hypersonic weapons travel in the upper atmosphere at speeds of more than five times the speed of sound, or over 3,850 miles per hour.
In a separate successful hypersonic weapon test recently, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency demonstrated its Operational Fires program, two people familiar with the matter said.
Operational Fires is a ground-launched system that will “rapidly and precisely engage critical, time-sensitive targets while penetrating modern enemy air defenses.” DARPA has requested and received $45 million for OpFires in fiscal year 2022.
The successful tests show progress among the myriad U.S. hypersonic weapons development efforts, which have in cases been beleaguered by failed tests, growing questions about cost and increasing concerns the United States is falling behind in what has become a superpower arms race.
These successful tests come after failed a June 29 test flight of a different type of hypersonic weapon, the Common Hypersonic Glide Body, at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.
Defense contractors hope to capitalize on the shift to hypersonic weapons not only by building them, but also by developing new detection and defeat mechanisms.
Arms makers like Lockheed, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon have all touted their hypersonic weapons programs to investors as the world’s focus shifted to the new arms race for an emerging class of weapon.
Updated at 4:20 p.m., Wednesday, July 13, 2022