USAF completes final hypersonic weapon captive-carry test

On August 8, the US Air Force (USAF) completed the final captive-carry test of its AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) aboard a B-52H Stratofortress off the southern California coast.

During the flight, the AGM-183A Instrumented Measurement Vehicle 2 (IMV-2) successfully transmitted telemetry and GPS data to ground stations at the Point Mugu Sea Range. The test also verified the system’s integration with its B-52H launch platform and its associated telemetry while practicing operational concepts for its first booster test flight, which is due to take place later this year. The USAF’s 419th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) conducted the flight from Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California.

B-52H ARRW Captive-Carry Test [USAF/Matt Williams]
Boeing B-52H Stratofortress - serial 60-0050 (c/n 464415) 'Dragon's Inferno' - departs Edwards AFB, California, to conduct the last captive-carry flight test. Note that the aircraft was fitted with two AGM-183A ARRWs under its port side wing. USAF/Matt Williams 

Brig Gen Heath Collins, the USAF’s programme executive officer for Weapons, said: “This is a major milestone for the [programme], the team and our air force… ARRW is the first step in bringing game-changing hypersonic capabilities to our warfighters.”

 

Lt Col Michael Jungquist, commander of the 419th FLTS and director of the Global Power Combined Test Force, added: “The event this week demonstrated the ability to communicate with the prototype weapon; the entire team is excited to take the next step and begin energetic flight [testing] of our first air-launched hypersonic weapons… These weapons will enable application of conventional firepower anywhere in the world at eye-watering speed.”

B-52H ARRW Captive-Carry Test [USAF/Giancarlo Casem]
The sun rises on Edwards AFB, as B-52H - serial 60-0050 (c/n 464415) 'Dragon's Inferno' - is prepped for its final AGM-183A captive-carry test mission. USAF/Giancarlo Casem 

The AGM-183A – which is being developed by Lockheed Martin – has been designed to enhance the US military’s ability to destroy high-value and time-sensitive targets. It will also allow for rapid response strikes against heavily defended land targets.

The USAF’s ARRW programme employs a rapid prototyping process which seeks to deliver a conventional hypersonic weapons capability to the USAF in the early-2020s. Development of the platform began with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) Tactical Boost Glide demonstration system, which will be integrated into the ARRW’s payload.

B-52H ARRW Captive-Carry Test [USAF/Giancarlo Casem]
The crew of B-52H Stratofortress - serial 60-0050 (c/n 464415) 'Dragon's Inferno' - conduct pre-flight procedures at Edwards AFB, California, prior to departing for its test mission on August 8. USAF/Giancarlo Casem 

“This test [programme] presents an opportunity for the US to showcase rapid warfighting innovation in the game-changing field of hypersonic research… The Global Power Bomber and Hypersonic CTFs [(Combined Test Forces)] are privileged to work with the ARRW system [programme] office and Lockheed Martin to bring this capability to fruition,” Jungquist said.