Air Force hypersonic missile test fails to launch from B-52

The Air Force’s first flight test of the rocket booster for its prototype hypersonic missile failed Monday when the test weapon did not launch, the service said Tuesday.

During the test flight over the Point Mugu Sea Range off the Southern California coast, a B-52H Stratofortress was supposed to launch the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon’s (ARRW) booster vehicle, but “the test missile was not able to complete its launch sequence,” the Air Force said in a news release.

The test missile was still “safely” on the aircraft when it returned to Edwards Air Force Base, the release added. That means Air Force engineers and testers will be able to study the defect and attempt to test the missile again, the release said.

“The ARRW program has been pushing boundaries since its inception and taking calculated risks to move this important capability forward,” Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, executive officer for the Air Force’s armament directorate program, said in a statement. “While not launching was disappointing, the recent test provided invaluable information to learn from and continue ahead. This is why we test.”

Hypersonic speed is generally defined as more than five times the speed of sound. The Air Force has said the ARRW is expected to be able to fly at speeds roughly six and a half to eight times the speed of sound.

The U.S. military has been working to develop hypersonic missiles as Russia and China make progress on their own hypersonic weapons.

With greater speed and maneuverability than existing missiles, hypersonic weapons are made to more easily evade existing missile defenses. Because of that, the U.S. military argues it is imperative it wins the race for hypersonic weapons in order to deter Russia and China.

The ARRW is “designed to provide the ability to destroy high-value, time-sensitive targets. It will also expand precision-strike weapon systems’ capabilities by enabling rapid response strikes against heavily defended land targets,” Tuesday’s release said.

The program aims to have a weapon ready to deploy early this decade, according to the release.

Tags Aircraft Boeing B-52 Stratofortress Hypersonic aircraft Hypersonic flight hypersonic missiles

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