US Air Force successfully tests hypersonic weapon

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A B-52 bomber conducted a successful test of the simulated hypersonic kill chain, using a hypersonic weapon to neutralize a target, the U.S. Air Force said.

The test was a “successful simulated hypersonic kill chain employment from sensor to shooter and back,” during the North Edge 21 exercises in Alaska, an Air Force statement said on Thursday.

As the B-52 traveled from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., to Alaska and back, it received target data from sensors over 1,000 nautical miles away at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

It then used an AGM-183 Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon to “successfully take a simulated shot of the target from 600 nautical miles away,” employing the Beyond Line of Sight Kill Chain concept, the statement said.

The AGM-183 ARRW is a hypersonic weapon propelled to a maximum potential speed of Mach 20, or about 13,000 mph, by a missile before gliding towards its target.

“We were really exercising the data links that we needed in order to complete that kill chain loop, and then get the feedback to the players in the airspace that the simulated hypersonic missile was fired and effective,” said Lt. Col. Joe Little, deputy commander of the 53rd Test Management Group headquartered at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

The procedure was managed in its entirety through the All-Domain Operations Capability command and control concept, which connects sensors used by the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Space Force into a single network.

Each branch, in the past, developed its own tactical network, which was incompatible with those of the other branches.

In February, the Pentagon said it intends to field offensive hypersonic weapons by the early- to mid-2020s, noting that Russia and China have aggressively pursued hypersonic systems in recent years.

In August 2020, the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin announced a successful hypersonic air-to-ground weapon test, using a B-52 bomber and an AGM-183 ARRW missile, at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

In a prior test in April 2020, at Point Mugu Sea Range, California, the weapon’s first booster rocket failed to launch.

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