U.S. Continues to Fail At Matching China, Russia Hypersonic Missile System

The US Air Force has admitted that at least one of Lockheed Martin's hypersonic missile systems has failed four tests, indicating that it is more likely to choose a rival system developed by Raytheon.

On Tuesday, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall told members of a US House committee that "the one we just had was not a success." We did not receive the data we required from that test, so investigators are currently looking into it to try to determine what transpired.

Kendall was referring to a test on March 13 off the coast of Southern California of the hypersonic attack cruise missile AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW). He made no particular comments on the launch's problems. Given that the Air Force stated in a press release last week that the ARRW test "reached several objectives," his remarks may have surprised legislators. The failure of the test was not mentioned in the release.

Three unsuccessful booster tests in 2021 caused a delay in the ARRW's development, which began in 2018. Last May, the Air Force declared the missile's first successful launch, claiming it reached speeds greater than Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.

While Washington has lagged behind Russia and China in the development of such weapons, American forces do not yet possess a fully operational hypersonic missile system. With speeds beyond Mach 5 and excellent maneuverability, hypersonic missiles are challenging to shoot down.

The Air Force is "more committed" to its other hypersonic program, the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM), in light of the most recent ARRW test, Kendall informed Congress. After as many as two more test launches, a budgeting decision on whether to use the ARRW is anticipated to be made the following year.

According to reports, the Air Force has received $423 million in financing for research and development for the ARRW over the last two years, and it has asked for an extra $150 million in funding for the upcoming fiscal year. The Air Force wants to spend an additional $1.9 billion on the program over the following five years, bringing the total funding for HACM to $423 million just for the current fiscal year.

According to Kendall, the HACM initiative has so far been "fairly successful." We see a clear role for the HACM concept, he continued. It will increase our overall fighting capability and is compatible with more of our aircraft.

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