The successful flight demonstrated the weapon’s ability to reach and withstand operational hypersonic speeds, collect data for use in further flight tests, and validate safe separation from the aircraft to deliver the glide body and warhead to designated targets from significant standoff distances.
Dave Berganini, vice president of Hypersonic and Strike Systems at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control said that the need for hypersonic strike capabilities is critical to the USA, with the successful test helping to maintain ‘an accelerated and rigorous timeline’.
Additional booster and all-up-round test flights will continue throughout 2022, before reaching Early Operational Capability (EOC) in 2023.
Hypersonic weapons provide a rapid response, time critical capability to overcome distance in contested environments using high speed, altitude and manoeuvrability.
The technology has continued to present complex engineering challenges, Lockheed Martin said in a statement. Going Mach 5, sometimes even faster, generates extreme levels of heat, driving the need for innovative materials, sensors and electronics to withstand such speeds throughout its journey.
In addition to heat, these systems must be able to maintain consistent communication connections as well as considerable intelligence to perform precise manoeuvrability techniques to overcome a range of advanced defence systems and extreme contested environments.
“The ARRW rapid prototyping program used Section 804 authorities provided by Congress to significantly accelerate the development and test of this system, without sacrificing engineering rigour,” said Marya Bard, US Air Force ARRW programme director.
“The tightly integrated Lockheed Martin and government team achieved speed with discipline by focusing on a common vision of providing combatant commanders a survivable rapid response strike capability as early as possible.”