On December 9, 2022, the US Air Force conducted the first complex test of the AGM-183 ARRW hypersonic missile, a competitor of the Russian Kinzhal and Zircons. This is reported in official press release of the Air Force dated December 12, 2022. The launch was carried out from aboard a Boeing B-52H Stratofortress bomber, which took off from Edwards Air Force Base in California.
This test was the first launch of a full operational prototype of the AGM-183 ARRW. Preliminary tests in 2021 and 2022 were aimed at confirming the effectiveness of the accelerators. After separating from the aircraft, the missile reached a hypersonic speed of Mach 5 (6125 km/h), flew to the specified area and hit the target. All test objectives were achieved.
“The ARRW team successfully designed and tested an air-launched hypersonic missile in five years,” he told Defense News Jason Bartholomew, Executive Officer of the Air Force Arms Directorate Program. “I am immensely proud of the tenacity and dedication this team has shown to provide a vital capability for our fighter.”
AGM-183 ARRW is a promising Lockheed Martin missile built on the principle of a hypersonic glider. It is believed to be the very weapon that President Donald Trump called the “Super Duper Missile” during a press conference on May 15, 2020.
Theoretically, it is believed that the AGM-183 ARRW will be able to reach a speed of Mach 20 (about 24,000 km/h), at least the DARPA Falcon HTV-2 test platforms, on the basis of which this missile is being developed, should theoretically accelerate to this speed. A speed of Mach 6.5-8, i.e. 8,000-10,000 km/h, looks more realistic.
The operational range of the AGM-183 ARRW is 1,600 km. Possible platforms are bombers B-1B, B-52, the latest B-21, and the F-15E multirole fighter. At the same time, each B-1B bomber can theoretically carry up to 31 AGM-183 ARRW units in internal weapons bays and on external pylons.
Apparently, this is the last test of the AGM-183 ARRW, if everything goes according to plan, serial production of the first American hypersonic missiles will begin in 2024.
Today, several countries are developing hypersonic weapons, the means of countering which do not yet exist. Russia has made the most progress with the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal and 3M22 Zirkon missiles. Since 2019, the PRC army has had a DF-ZF hypersonic ground-based missile in its arsenal, although the exact number of such missiles in service is unknown. The development of hypersonic weapons is also taking place in Australia, North Korea, France and Japan.