December 14, 2022

US Air Force Successfully Launches First Operational Hypersonic Missile

The United States Air Force (USAF) says it has conducted the first test launch of an operational hypersonic missile prototype. Tests of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon or ARRW on Friday, December 9, 2022, off the coast of California were declared successful.

“After the release of the ARRW from the aircraft, it was capable of flying at hypersonic speeds of more than five times the speed of sound, completed its flight path, and exploded in the terminal area. The indications show that all objectives were met,” said a USAF official on Monday, December 12, 2022.

The ARRW is expected to be the United States military's first hypersonic weapon to achieve operational status. The AGM-183A's exact speed is unknown, although the Lockheed Martin-designed weapon is said to be based on an earlier test vehicle built by DARPA, which allegedly had a maximum speed of Mach 20 or 24,000 km/h.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA is the US Department of Defense agency responsible for developing new technologies for use by the military. Initially, the agency was known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency.

“The ARRW team has successfully designed and tested an air-launched hypersonic missile in five years,” said Brigadier General Jason Bartolomei, Armaments Directorate Programs Executive Officer, in a USAF statement.

According to the Air Force, the missile is designed to engage fixed, high-value, and time-sensitive targets that are at risk in contested environments. This means that the ARRW will be used to target predetermined assets on the ground such as fixed missile sites, radar stations, air defense installations, infrastructure facilities, or even enemy headquarters buildings. The object or area in question is basically anything important in the battlefield environment that can't be moved and needs to be destroyed quickly.

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