Roper: ARRW Test Flight Shows Hypersonic Weapons are Real

The US Air Force successfully conducted the first flight test of its AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, on a B-52 Stratofortress aircraft on June 12, 2019, at Edwards AFB, Calif. Air Force photo.

LE BOURGET, France—The first flight of a prototype hypersonic weapon on the wing of a B-52 last week means hypersonics are becoming real, the Air Force’s head of acquisition said June 18.

“We are getting hypersonics out of the lab and into the real world where our weapons systems live,” Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said in an interview at the Paris Air Show.

The sensor-only AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) was not launched during the June 12 flight, instead the test evaluated the drag and wind impacts on the weapon.

Video by Edwards Air Force Base via YouTube.

“It’s a step. Not a huge step, but it’s an important step to start thinking of hypersonic weapons not as science and technology, but as a current weapon system,” he said.

The Air Force plans to have the first operational flight test of the weapon by the end of calendar year 2020, Roper said, with initial operational capability by 2022.

The fact that the B-52, one of the oldest systems in the Air Force, carried a futuristic weapon is “poetic,” Roper said. Stratofortress aircrews can feel like they are part of the legacy force, but being a part of this testing shows the aircraft’s relevance. Additionally, the avionics upgrades and forthcoming new engines are like a “knee or a hip replacement” to make the B-52 feel new again, Roper said.