The US Air Force (USAF) has achieved a new milestone towards the implementation and production of its first air-launched rapid response weapon (ARRW).

A USAF team recently validated the loading procedures of this future hypersonic weapon with the B-52H aircraft at the Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB) in Louisiana, US.

The test activity was executed by a team of airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Group, assigned under the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assessed together with the personnel from the ARRW and B-52H Stratofortress Systems Programmes Office.

As part of this trial-and-error test process, airmen developed a standard method for loading and unloading the weapon system onto the B-52H Stratofortress bomber aircraft.

US Air Force Global Strike Command B-52 armament systems manager master sergeant Caleb Nolen said: “It demonstrates the far-reaching capabilities of the B-52 and now projects its combat capabilities even further with the ARRW system.”

Built by Lockheed Martin, the AGM-183A ARRW is the first air-launched hypersonic weapon to be deployed by the USAF. It is expected to be operational by late next year.

The newest hypersonic weapon can travel at high speeds, which is five times more than the speed of sound.

The capability allows the combatant commanders to hit any time-sensitive target easily and rapidly in the battlespace.

Following the successful validation of loading and unloading procedures, the service will now commence the ARRW live fire tests by the end of this year.

Once the tests are complete, the weapon system will be considered for rapid production.

The frequent test of this weapon system is a result of the National Defense Authentication Act section 804 Rapid Prototyping, under the Rapid Fielding programme, which supports swift weapon development in specific cases.