The options for a practical hypersonic missile for the US have narrowed to one after Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Andrew P. Hunter told the House Armed Services Committee that the Department of Defense is cancelling Lockheed Martin’s ARRW (AGM-183A) program.
The United States is committed to acquiring hypersonic weapons as soon as possible to be able to overcome the long distances over the Pacific Ocean and to be able to penetrate enemy defenses with missiles capable of flying well over five times the speed of sound.
Such a capability would revolutionize warfare as certainly as the development of supersonic flight in the late 1940s. However, hypersonics is an extremely advanced school of aerospace engineering to master. It isn’t just a question of flying very fast, which is hard enough. It also means developing the materials, sensors, avionics, and control mechanisms that can make such missiles practical weapons.
In other words, developing hypersonics is extremely expensive and in a world where the invasion of Ukraine and the increasing aggressiveness of China has sparked a worldwide arms buying spree coupled with deploying more advanced military systems quickly, priorities must be set.
In the case of the US hypersonic programs, Lockheed’s ARRW (AGM-183A) has been something of a mixed bag, with its successes marred by a string of failed test flights. With each missile having a production cost of an estimated US$18 million, there is a very strong incentive to get it right.
As a result, Secretary Hunter told the House committee in testimony on March 29 that the US Air Force would not be going forward with the ARRW missile. Instead, it was requesting $150.3 million of Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) funding in the 2024 budget to complete the rapid prototyping program already underway. Though the ARRW will not see service, the argument is that it will still provide valuable data for the continuing Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) and future programs.
Source: US Government
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