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US Air Force to integrate AGM-183 ARRW hypersonic missile with B-1/B-52 bombers within next 2 years


Jun 19, 2014
United States
United States
WASHINGTON: The head of Air Force Global Strike Command, Gen. Timothy Ray, wants to integrate the first hypersonic missiles onto the B-52 and B-1 bomber fleets “in the next couple of years.”

“We’re working some plans on that, and I am very pleased with the progress that we’re making,” Ray told reporters in a roundtable this afternoon on the margins of the annual Air Force Association conference (AFA 2020). “And so I’m going to continue to press on that capability,” he added.

Ray said the command needs to deploy the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) “soonest” — in part to beef up the capacity to undertake “dynamic force employment’ over far-flung theaters such as the Indo-Pacific.

Ray asserted that hypersonic capability would further demonstrate the importance of the Bomber Task Force to Dynamic Force Employment — one of Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s top 10 goals for 2020 in implementing the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

In response to my question during today’s presser, he suggested this gives the Air Force a leg up as the Pentagon and Joint Chiefs of Staff hash out future service roles and missions regarding long-range strike as they settle on a new Joint Warfighting Concept. (As Breaking D readers know, Esper has ordered the new concept to be readied by the end of the year.)

“I’ll steer you to the comments this morning from the Secretary of Defense. He said there’s no better example of Dynamic Force Employment than the Bomber Task Forces. He talked about our ability to get anywhere on the planet, where I don’t have the same limitations for access facing an overflight. So we’ve proven, even in a pandemic, that we can do that in an incredible fashion. Just connect hypersonic capability to that.”

He added that from discussions with Combatant Commanders for European Command and Indo-Pacific Command they also see bombers with hypersonic capabilities as “incredibly, incredibly valuable.”

Lockheed Martin is developing the ARRW under a $480 million contract for concept development awarded in 2018. In December 2019, it nabbed another contract, worth $998 million, to bring its concept to critical design review (CDR) — which the missile passed in February. The Air Force has budgeted $382 million for ARRW in 2021.

Whereas ARRW is a boost-glide missile, the Air Force is also eyeing hypersonic missiles that use scramjets — and Ray said he is interested in that capability as well.

“This is not an either or. I think we should do both,” he said.

However, Ray stressed that his focus is on moving ARRW as fast as possible because “scramjet, cruise missile” capability is not yet as mature. Indeed, DoD’s cutting-edge research arm, DARPA, is leading development of this type of hypersonic missile because the technology remains extremely challenging.

DARPA is working on two concepts — the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapons Concept (HAWC) and Hypersonic Strike Weapon-air breathing (HSW-ab) — with a goal of handing them over to the Air Force when they mature.

Ray also stressed that the mission capable rates of the bomber fleet has improved and that he is, overall, pleased with progress on that front — despite the continued struggles of the B-52 with its aging TF-33 engine.

In particular, he noted, the B-1 has turned around and is “meeting its fleet numbers” some six or seven months ahead of what AFGSC thought was possible. “The recovery is incredibly successful.” At one point, half-a-dozen B-1s were ready to fly.

“On any given day, I probably can fly well over 20 of the B-1s. And I can fly, probably, in the mid- to high-30s for the B-52 on any given day. And I can fly almost every B-2 that’s at home, notwithstanding the numbers in depot,” Ray said.



Feb 15, 2013
Is it just me who thinks that Hyper sonic missiles are nothing but high speed guided rockets. It is not as if world didn't have hyper sonic missiles considering almost all Ballistic missiles can achieve hyper sonic speed. Considering the fact that at greater speed missile becomes less maneuverable and less accurate how does this help against well defended targets? I mean there is a reason US and West avoided supersonic missiles for decades and focused more on stealthier designs to achieve a highly maneuverable cruise. Same cant be said for hypersonic speeds considering high speed drag prevents a missile from complex maneuvers. Can some one explain to me the logic behind investing in higher speeds rather than stealth and higher maneuverability?

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