B-52 Stratofortress bomber crews take part in hypersonic weapon familiarization training at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on Feb. 27, 2024.

B-52 Stratofortress bomber crews take part in hypersonic weapon familiarization training at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on Feb. 27, 2024. (Pedro Tenorio/U.S. Air Force)

The Air Force used a Guam-based B-52H Stratofortress bomber to test a hypersonic missile it had relegated to prototype status.

The AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, was fired Sunday over the Reagan test site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, according to an Air Force statement emailed Wednesday by Secretary of the Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.

“This test launched a full prototype operational hypersonic missile and focused on the ARRW’s end-to-end performance,” the statement said. “The Air Force gained valuable insights into the capabilities of this new, cutting-edge technology.”

The AGM-183 is a conventional, rocket-powered hypersonic gliding missile with a warhead of “kinetic energy” projectiles rather than explosives, according to a fiscal 2021 Air Force report.

Sunday’s test may be the AGM-183’s final flight.

The Air Force had asked for $150.3 million for research and to test the weapon, Air Force assistant secretary Andrew Hunter told the House subcommittee on tactical and land forces March 29, 2023.

“While the Air Force does not currently intend to pursue follow-on procurement” of the AGM-183 once it develops a prototype, “there is inherent benefit to completing” the test flights “to garner the learning and test data that will help inform future hypersonic programs and potential leave behind capability support,” according to a record of that testimony on the Armed Services Committee website.

The U.S. conducted its first hypersonic missile test in December 2022 and made several more tests last year.

Both China and Russia have fielded their own hypersonic weapons that can travel five times the speed of sound and maneuver in flight like a cruise missile, making them harder to detect and shoot down.

North Korea reported the successful ground test of a solid-fuel engine for a new type of intermediate hypersonic missile, a test overseen by the country’s autocratic leader Kim Jong Un, according to the Associated Press and other media outlets Wednesday.

The Air Force isn’t releasing its test objectives, the Air Force statement said, but added the test acquired valuable, unique data and was intended to further a range of hypersonic programs.

“We also validated and improved our test and evaluation capabilities for continued development of advanced hypersonic systems,” the statement said.

ARRW maker Lockheed said it is ready to deliver hypersonic capabilities to the Air Force, according to a statement published Wednesday by Defense News.

“Following the recent end-to-end flight test, Lockheed Martin has completed the test program with full confidence in ARRW’s revolutionary capabilities, and we stand ready to deliver this fully-qualified, hypersonic solution to the U.S. Air Force,” the company said.

Airmen trained on the ARRW on Guam in March and at Andrews Air Force Base, Calif., in September, according to the Air Force. Photographs of airmen on Guam checking out what appeared to be an ARRW were posted on Andersen’s website Feb. 29.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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