Pentagon won't be buying air-launched hypersonic missile after failed test: report

in an illustration, a missile flies above the earth and clouds. far behind is a large military plane that deployed the missile
An illustration of the AGM-183A ARRW hypersonic missile in flight. (Image credit: Lockheed Martin)

The U.S. Air Force will not use a Lockheed Martin-made hypersonic weapon after a troubled set of tests, the service's acquisition lead said on Wednesday (March 29).

The service's new AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW ("Arrow") was supposed to be the United States military's first hypersonic weapon to reach operational status. A successful test happened in December, with a peak velocity five times the speed of sound, following several failed efforts.

December's test met all major objectives, but USAF secretary Frank Kendall said in a hearing that a test in March had failed, according to Defense News. Following that, acquisition lead Andrew Hunter submitted written testimony to the House Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee on Wednesday (March 29) saying the USAF will not buy the weapon, but they will complete testing.

Related: US Air Force launches 1st operational hypersonic missile

"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 in his testimony, Defense News said.

When the Lockheed test happened exactly has not been released, but also in March a hypersonic test launch was scrubbed out of Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station "as a result of pre-flight checks", according to the Office of the Secretary of Defense in a statement to Florida Today.

Lockheed Martin, speaking with Breaking Defense, told the news outlet the company is "committed to developing hypersonic technology on an accelerated timeline to meet this critical national security need" despite not being selected.

A B-52H Stratofortress undergoes pre-flight procedures at Edwards Air Force Base, California on Aug. 8, 2020, before a captive-carry flight test of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon Instrumented Measurement Vehicle 2 off the Southern California coast.  (Image credit: Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)

Hypersonic weapons are a key development area for the Pentagon, which has repeatedly warned U.S. politicians that Russia and China already have such weapons ready to go. But the canceled ARRW is not the only hypersonic program within the United States.

DARPA has a Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) that is also testing prototypes, including one from Lockheed, while the Air Force's Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) is also ongoing, for example.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: