USAF's ARRW hypersonic weapon fails to launch during flight test

By Sara Sirota / April 6, 2021 at 12:19 PM

The Air Force's flagship boost-glide hypersonic vehicle -- the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon -- encountered a problem during a flight demonstration Monday and failed to launch from a B-52.

The flight over Point Mugu Sea Range, CA, was supposed to be the first time the Air Force released ARRW from a host aircraft, but the weapon was unable to complete its launch sequence and safely returned with the B-52 to Edwards Air Force Base, CA, according to a statement Air Force spokesman Capt. Jacob Bailey sent to Inside Defense today.

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

In addition to demonstrating safe release, the Air Force had hoped to assess booster performance, booster-shroud separation and simulated glider separation. Engineers will now evaluate the malfunction and return the weapon for another test, though the statement does not indicate how long that process may last.

ARRW prime contractor Lockheed Martin referred questions about the program to the Air Force.

Meanwhile, the defect sets flight testing back even further after the Air Force delayed the initial launch demonstration from December. The service has already conducted seven captive-carriage tests, the last of which occurred in August 2020.

The statement does not provide details about how the malfunction may affect ARRW's anticipated production schedule. Former Air Force acquisition executive Will Roper said in December he hoped production would begin this year.