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US Air Force conducts first fully successful test of air-launched hypersonic missile


The US Air Force conducted the first successful test of its full air-launched hypersonic missile, the Air Force said in a statement, a program that had previously suffered a series of setbacks due to failed tests.

A full prototype of the air-launched rapid response weapon, known for short as the ARRW, was launched Friday from a B-52 off the coast of California.

The AGM-183A missile reached hypersonic speeds more than five times the speed of sound and it exploded in the terminal area, the 96th Test Wing said. All test objectives were met, according to the Air Force.

The ARRW is a boost-glide missile that uses a booster rocket to accelerate a projectile to hypersonic speeds. A hovering vehicle then separates from the thruster and uses inertia to travel to its target at hypersonic speeds.

This test was the first of the entire system, known as the All-Up-Round test. Previous launches were focused on the booster rocket.

The ARRW missile suffered a series of failures during testing last year, forcing the Air Force to delay the project. The Air Force described the failures as “abnormalities”.

The Pentagon has placed more emphasis on testing and developing hypersonic weapons, especially as China and Russia have made progress on their own programs.

Russia has deployed its hypersonic Kinzhal missiles in Ukraine, marking perhaps the first time such weapons have been used in wartime. And in a test last year, a Chinese hypersonic missile circled the globe before hitting its target.

Hypersonic weapons travel at speeds in excess of Mach 5, or about 4,000 miles per hour, making them difficult to detect and intercept in time. Missiles can also maneuver and vary altitude, allowing them to evade current missile defense systems.

As the world’s other superpowers progressed in developing their hypersonic weapons, the United States found itself falling even further behind due to failed tests.

In May, another hypersonic system called the Common Hypersonic Glide Body failed its first full test due to an “anomaly”, the Pentagon said. The system’s previous test, a joint venture between the Army and Navy, had also failed.

Since then, the Pentagon has worked to increase the pace of hypersonic testing and its research and development efforts, bringing in universities to help with some of the more complex aspects of advanced missiles.

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