The US Air Force and Lockheed Martin successfully flight tested a hypersonic missile on the service's Boeing B-52 Stratofortress out of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on June 12, 2019, read a Lockheed Martin press release.
The "captive carry flight test" evaluates an unarmed AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) during flight and shows that the Air Force is dangerously behind the development curve of hypersonic missiles amid an arms race between China and Russia.
A prototype of the ARRW was attached to a B-52 to gather test data including environmental and aircraft handling characteristics. #EdwardsAirForceBase #TheCenterOfTheAerospaceTestingUniverse #B52 pic.twitter.com/1mmtRVue25— Edwards AFB (@EdwardsAFB) June 18, 2019
A hypersonic missile can fly at speeds exceeding five times the speed of sound (Mach 5).
The ARRW completed a preliminary design review in March, with the expectation of ground and flight tests for the next three years.
"With hypersonic capabilities being a national security priority, Lockheed Martin and the US Air Force are accelerating the maturation and fielding of a hypersonic weapon system," said Frank St. John, executive vice president at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "Lockheed Martin is proud to partner with the US Air Force on this important initiative."
Last April, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $928 million contract to build a hypersonic conventional strike weapon.
Rising powers [China and Russia] have been conducting hypersonic flight tests for several years. A little over a year ago, Putin revealed hypersonic missiles that have since been sent into series production with deployment currently underway.
As it stands, the US doesn't have a working hypersonic missile nor the defense missile shields against enemy hypersonic weapons.
Meanwhile, last August, China stated that it had successfully tested a hypersonic aircraft, something that the US could be many years away from achieving.
"The Chinese have been much more thoughtful in their systems development because they are developing long-range tactical precision-guided systems that will be really influential in a conventional fight," Michael Griffin, a former NASA administrator, said in a previous interview.
"The Chinese ability to hold our forward deployed assets at risk with very high speed and very hard to intercept precision-guided systems is something to which we have to respond," he added.
Lockheed's latest ARRW test is one of many that will eventually be air-launched from a B-52 bomber. While many might think this is an achievement of American air supremacy, it is not, and the service severely lags China and Russia in hypersonics.