This captive carry flight is the most recent step in the US Air Force's rapid prototyping effort to mature the hypersonic weapon, AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), which successfully completed a preliminary design review in March. More ground and flight testing will follow over the next three years.
While billed as a flight test, the sensor-only version of the ARRW prototype was carried externally by a B-52 during the test to gather environmental and aircraft handling data.
The test gathered data on drag and vibration impacts on the weapon itself and on the external carriage equipment of the aircraft. The prototype did not have explosives and it was not released from the B-52 during the flight test. This type of data collection is required for all Air Force weapon systems undergoing development.
Frank St. John, executive vice president of missiles and fire control at Lockheed Martin, explained, "With hypersonic capabilities being a national security priority, Lockheed Martin and the US Air Force are accelerating the maturation and fielding of a hypersonic weapon system."
Hypersonic weapons provide a survivable and affordable capability that will overcome distance in contested environments using high speed, altitude and manoeuvrability. They amplify many of the enduring attributes of airpower – speed, range, flexibility and precision.
Dr Will Roper, assistant secretary of the US Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, explained the importance of developing hypersonic weapons systems, saying, "We’re using the rapid prototyping authorities provided by Congress to quickly bring hypersonic weapon capabilities to the warfighter.
"We set out an aggressive schedule with ARRW. 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."
The ARRW rapid prototyping effort awarded a contract in August 2018 to Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Florida, for critical design review, test and production readiness support to facilitate fielded prototypes.
Robust experience in high-speed flight has positioned Lockheed Martin to be an industry leader in hypersonic technology, providing the most mature and cost-effective solutions for addressing increasing threats in the global security arena.
Lockheed Martin has played a significant role in the research, development and demonstration of hypersonic technologies for more than 30 years. The corporation has made significant investments in key technology and capability development – including hypersonic strike capabilities and defence systems against emerging hypersonic threats.