The US Air Force (USAF) has performed the maiden flight test of its air-launched rapid response weapon (ARRW) hypersonic weapon on a B-52 Stratofortress aircraft.
Conducted out of Edwards Air Force Base in California, the test saw the B-52 carry a sensor-only version of the AGM-183A ARRW externally.
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control bagged a contract last year to design the ARRW hypersonic weapon, which is expected to travel at Mach 5 or higher to overcome enemy defences.
The company will also provide critical design review, test and production readiness support to facilitate fielded prototypes.
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control executive vice-president Frank St. John said: “With hypersonic capabilities being a national security priority, Lockheed Martin and the USAF are accelerating the maturation and fielding of a hypersonic weapon system. Lockheed Martin is proud to partner with the USAF on this important initiative.”
The captive carry flight test comes after the hypersonic weapon completed a preliminary design review in March this year.
It represents another milestone in the USAF’s rapid prototyping effort to mature the AGM-183A.
The service plans to conduct further ground and flight testing over the next three years.
The USAF is targeting the development of a hypersonic weapon by 2021, with initial operational capability scheduled to be achieved by fiscal 2022.
In a statement, Lockheed Martin said: “Hypersonic weapons provide a survivable and affordable capability that will overcome distance in contested environments using high speed, altitude and manoeuvrability.”
These weapons have the ability to amplify speed, range, flexibility and precision.
The flight test collected data on drag and vibration impacts on the weapon and on the external carriage equipment of the B-52 Stratofortress aircraft.
The USAF stated that the prototype used in the test did not have any explosives.
Under special provisions, the service intends to quickly bring hypersonic weapon capabilities to the warfighter.