USAF's ARRW rocket booster fails to ignite after separating from B-52 in second test

By Briana Reilly / July 30, 2021 at 10:39 AM

After failing to launch from a B-52H bomber during its first flight test, the Air Force's Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon successfully completed its full release sequence but stopped short of igniting its rocket motor as part of a demonstration Wednesday.

The second flight test of the service’s flagship boost-glide hypersonic vehicle over Point Mugu Sea Range, CA, didn’t meet all the objectives officials had laid out, though an Air Force spokesman declined to elaborate on those objectives when asked for comment. Nor did he provide additional information on the failed ignition of the rocket motor.

Still, the missile separated from the B-52 in the test -- held three months after it was unable to detach from the B-52H’s wing -- and demonstrated GPS acquisition, umbilical disconnect and power transfer from the aircraft to the missile as part of the full release sequence, according to a news release. The missile also showcased fin operation and de-confliction maneuvers.

“Developing first-of-its-kind missiles is difficult business and this [is] why we test,” Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, program executive officer of the Air Force's armament directorate, said in the release. “This is a critical capability for our Air Force and we have the very best team working to figure out what happened, fix it and move out to deliver ARRW to our warfighters as quickly as possible.”

The release didn’t mention the timeline for future flight tests, though the service previously conducted seven captive-carriage tests, ending in August 2020. Despite the testing setbacks, the release notes “the program continues to track toward fielding a hypersonic capability in the early 2020s.”