March 29, 2023 7:47 pm
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US Air Force Abandons Lockheed Hypersonic Weapon Program After Test Failure

The US Air Force has announced plans to end the Lockheed Martin hypersonic weapons program.

Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition Andrew Hunter confirmed the major development in testimony given to a House Armed Services subcommittee on Wednesday. He said the Air Force doesn’t “currently intend to pursue follow-on procurement” of the weapon known as the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW).

Breaking Defense reported earlier that the Lockheed Martin-made ARRW might be in jeopardy, citing Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, who told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee during testimony on the service’s fiscal 2024 budget request this week that the March 13 test was “not a success.”

The one we just had was not a success. We did not get the data that we needed from that test … currently examining that, trying to understand what happened,” Kendall told lawmakers.

He was referring to the news last Friday of an ARRW test by the Air Force that only achieved “several” objectives but omitted any claims of success

Sources close to Bloomberg said the missile, released from a B-52H bomber off the southern coast of California, experienced data link transmitting issues during flight. 

Assistant Secretary Hunter’s testimony didn’t clarify whether the Air Force is giving up on the Lockheed program because of the failure, or if it was already on the chopping block, but clearly the program has been troubled.

Kendall had suggested that possible further tests might determine the fate of the ARRW program. He noted the Air Force’s other hypersonic program, the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM), showed more promising results:

“We see a definite role for the HACM concept. It’s compatible with more of our aircraft. And it’ll give us more combat capability overall. So, we’re more committed to HACM at this point in time than we are to ARRW.” 

It is indeed embarrassing that the US (the largest military budget in the world) has yet to field any hypersonic missiles, while Russia has already used its hypersonic Kinzhal missiles multiple times in the conflict in Ukraine. 

Since 2019, the Department of Defense has plowed billions of dollars into programs aimed at developing hypersonic missiles, as defense officials warned Russia and China are advancing in this field. However, the recent Air Force hypersonic missile test ended in failure, raising concerns about whether the US is falling behind in the hypersonic arms race

Why is the US falling behind the hypersonic arms race? 


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