ARRW faces continued issues in third flight test

By Briana Reilly / December 21, 2021 at 11:34 AM

The Air Force's Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon faced "an unknown issue" during an attempted booster test flight this month, the service's program executive officer for weapons confirmed, marking the latest testing mishap for the hypersonic missile.

First reported by The War Zone last week, the Dec. 15 demonstration -- the hypersonic weapon’s third flight test -- was cut short as officials aborted its launch sequence from a B-52 before its release, Brig. Gen. Heath Collins said in an emailed statement.

No further details about the underlying issue were included, and spokeswoman Lena Lopez declined to address additional questions, saying officials don’t “have any new information to share.” Collins in his statement said the program will “immediately” begin an analysis of the telemetry and onboard data following the missile’s return to the factory.

The news comes in the wake of testing issues in July, in which ARRW separated from the bomber but failed to light its rocket motor -- an episode that prompted a recently wrapped-up failure review board investigation.

The probable root cause, program lead Marya Bard told Inside Defense this month, was attributed to “an electrical issue which caused the booster ignition device to not function.”

A few months before the July flight test, ARRW failed to launch from a B-52 during what was supposed to be the first time the weapon was released from a host aircraft, an initial demonstration that had previously been set to take place in December 2020.

It’s unclear when the next flight test may occur. Collins’ statement said the program aims to resume demonstrations “as quickly as possible.”

The service previously conducted seven captive-carriage tests, ending in August 2020. Officials have maintained that the program is heading toward fielding a fully operational capability in the early 2020s.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has spoken about his dissatisfaction with the service’s pace on hypersonics development, telling reporters in September he’d like to see quicker progress as he noted Russian and Chinese efforts are “concerning” because of their speed. He added that officials need “to do a better job of figuring out exactly what we need in our inventory and what the best delivery systems are.”

“There’s some test assets that we’d like to have that could still be funded,” he said. “There are things we could do to accelerate that but again, we’ve got to solve the problem first, where are we trying to go? Then we can get there as quick as possible.”