The US military successfully tests two hypersonic weapons

“This was another important milestone for the Air Force's first air-launched hypersonic weapon."
Ameya Paleja
The ARRW weapon during its testLockheed Martin

After a series of failures, things have begun to fall in place for the U.S. military as it looks to build up an arsenal of hypersonic weapons. On Wednesday, the Pentagon confirmed that two Lockheed Martin hypersonic missiles were successfully tested, Reuters reported.

Regarded as the next frontier of warfare, hypersonic weapons are a key priority for the U.S.'s National Defense Strategy. However, adversarial countries such as Russia and China have reported better success in demonstrating the deployment of the technology.

Almost exactly a year ago, Russia showcased its Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile that allegedly travels at seven times the speed of sound while being able to hit targets from 200 miles (321 km). Later in October, it also claimed to have fired the hypersonic weapon from a submarine. China fired an unknown hypersonic glide weapon in November last year, further escalating tensions. 

Back-to-back successes

The U.S. hypersonic weapon program appeared to be trailing by its own standards. The Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) failed its second attempt to fire in July last year. This was a program that aimed to make progress by 2020. 

In May this year, the weapon was test-fired successfully and traveled at five times the speed of sound. Now, the U.S. Air Force has confirmed that they have successfully completed the consecutive launch of the ARRW weapon off the southern California coast on July 12.

"This second successful test demonstrates ARRW's ability to reach and withstand operational hypersonic speeds, collect crucial data for use in further flight tests, and validate safe separation from the aircraft," Lockheed Martin, the weapon's developer said in a statement. The weapon will now move to all-up-round testing later this year.  

Lockheed's other hypersonic weapon

In a separate hypersonic weapons test program conducted at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) confirmed the successful performance of the first test of its Operational Fires (OpFires) hypersonic weapon.

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OpFires is a ground-launched system that enables hypersonic boost glide weapons to quickly and accurately engage dangerous and time-sensitive targets. Last year, we reported that the project had moved to Phase 3b, which involved full-scale missile fabrication, assembly, and flight testing out of a launch vehicle. 

The OpFires program aimed at developing an advanced booster that could deliver various payloads at various ranges, its website said. DARPA had picked Lockheed Martin to demonstrate this ability. In the recently concluded test, Lockheed Martin used the exiting High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launcher successfully to achieve this. The HIMARS is also a weapon that was recently sent to Ukraine.

The success of these programs also comes with the backdrop of another hypersonic weapon failure. On June 29, a different type of hypersonic weapon, called the Common Hypersonic Glide Body, failed its test at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii, Reuters said in its report.   

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