WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force isn’t going to buy the hypersonic AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon after the prototyping phase ends, following problems during testing, the service’s acquisition chief told lawmakers Wednesday.
But the service will still finish the ARRW program’s last two all-up round test flights to collect data to help with future hypersonic programs, Andrew Hunter told the House Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee in written testimony.
“While the Air Force does not currently intend to pursue follow-on procurement of ARRW once the prototyping program concludes, there is inherent benefit to completing the all-up round test flights to garner the learning and test data that will help inform future hypersonic programs,” Hunter wrote.
Hunter sounded the death knell for Lockheed Martin’s ARRW program a day after Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in another hearing that a March test had failed.
The Air Force on Friday said it had conducted a second test launch of a fully operational prototype ARRW on March 13. But the service did not describe the test as successful, instead saying it met several objectives. After a previous test launch in December, the Air Force had released a statement that said all objectives were met.
Kendall told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel on Tuesday that the March 13 ARRW test was “not a success” and that the program has “struggled a little bit in its testing process.”
Kendall said Tuesday that the Air Force still wants to carry out two more ARRW tests with its remaining prototypes. But he told lawmakers that the service is more committed to its other major hypersonic weapon program, the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile.
Hunter did not address the ARRW program in the verbal testimony he delivered to lawmakers, nor did lawmakers ask him about it.
Hypersonic weapons can travel at speeds greater than Mach 5 and are highly maneuverable, which makes them difficult to track and shoot down. China and Russia have invested considerable resources in developing these weapons for their militaries, and several U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern that the country is not doing enough to field its own hypersonic capabilities.
Kendall said Tuesday that the Dec. 9 test of an operational prototype ARRW was “a very successful flight” and a step forward for the program.
Kendall has long expressed skepticism on the ARRW program, as it has faced delays and failed tests. The program also suffered a string of three test failures in 2021. And in March 2022, after Congress passed a fiscal 2022 spending bill that struck plans to buy ARRW missiles that year and instead funded more research and development, Kendall said “ARRW still has to prove itself.”
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.