The ARRW, the United States' first hypersonic missile, is almost ready for operational status

According to a press release from the Air Force, its planned hypersonic missile, the ARRW, is now very close to actually becoming operational.
Christopher McFadden
The ARRW will be carried by B-52 bomber once complete.
The ARRW will be carried by B-52 bomber once complete.

U.S. Air Force/Christopher Okula/Wikimedia Commons 

According to the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) is moving forward with developing the first hypersonic weapon for the Air Force.

A staff announcement from Barksdale Air Force Base says that the first steps have been taken to make the Air Force's first air-launched hypersonic weapon a reality. As early as fall 2023, the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW for short, is expected to be complete and ready for deployment.

The AGM-183 ARRW is a hypersonic air-to-ground missile planned for use by the United States Air Force. Lockheed Martin made the boost-glide vehicle. It has a rocket motor that speeds it up to more than Mach 5 before it glides to its target.

The U.S. Air Force granted Lockheed Martin a $480 million contract in August 2018 to develop an air-launched hypersonic weapon. In June 2019, the AGM-183A ARRW ("Arrow"), the resulting missile, underwent its initial captive carry flight test on board a B-52 of the United States Air Force. 

The ARRW, the United States' first hypersonic missile, is almost ready for operational status
U.S. aircrews have now standardized the loading procedures for the new missile.

The U.S. Air Force indicated that it would proceed with the acquisition of the AGM-183A in February 2020, the same month that the Trump Administration proposed a 23 percent boost in the budget for hypersonic weapons.

According to Michael D. Griffin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, the United States was "near at hand" to having a hypersonic boost-glide weapon ready for use in March 2020.

The AGM-183A can travel at a maximum speed of almost 15,000 mph (24,000 km/h; Mach 20) and uses a boost-glide mechanism in which a rocket is mounted to accelerate it to a hypersonic speed before it glides toward a target.

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The missile is nearing readiness for deployment on the B52

Recently, loading procedures for the B-52H Stratofortress' newest armament were validated by airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Group, 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and civilians from the ARRW and B-52H Stratofortress Systems Programs Office.

The conventional procedures for mounting the weapon on the aircraft and removing it from it were developed by Airmen and civilians through trial and error.

Since the ARRW travels five times the speed of sound, giving combatant commanders the ability to hit time-sensitive targets easily.

The ARRW, the United States' first hypersonic missile, is almost ready for operational status
The ARRW is the first U.S. Air Force hypersonic weapon and is scheduled to be operational in fall of 2023.

“It demonstrates the far-reaching capabilities of the B-52, and now it projects its combat capabilities even further with the ARRW system,” explained Master Sgt. Caleb Nolen, Air Force Global Strike B-52 armament systems manager.

The National Defense Authentication Act section 804 Rapid Prototyping, Rapid Fielding program, which permits quick weapon development in some circumstances, sped up the creation of this hypersonic weapon, according to the press release.

According to Bret Berryhill, the ARRW logistics chief, "the FY16 [the fiscal year 2016] NDAA implemented section 804 as a means for programs to prototype weapons within five years quickly, and then a determination will be made if the program was successful enough to move to Rapid Production phase."

ARRW will be considered for quick manufacture and is slated to start live-fire testing before the end of this year.

The ARRW is the first air-launched hypersonic weapon developed by the Air Force, enabling combatant commanders to hit time-sensitive targets more quickly than ever. The weapon can begin live-fire testing after the loading and unloading procedures have been approved, after which production can begin. In the fall of 2023, the weapon is expected to be ready for use.