US AGM-183A hypersonic missile test unsuccessful

WASHINGTON, (BM) – Russia is currently ahead of the United States in developing hypersonic weapons. Russian forces have already put the Avangard system into service and has the air ballistic missile, air-to-ground Kinzhal, and the 3M22 Zirkon [or Tsirkon] missile, intended for its naval forces.

However, the Pentagon is leading several projects simultaneously, including the “Common Hypersonic Glide Body,” the “Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon,” and the “Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon.” And in this area, he alternates good and bad fortunes.

In any case, on April 5, as reported, what was to be the first firing of an AGM-183A by a B-52H Stratofortress bomber ended on a sour note: it was not possible to go to the end of the launch sequence of this hypersonic missile, for the reason that the US Air Force did not specify. USAF safely returned the carrier plane to Edwards Air Force Base [California].

“The ARRW program has been pushing the boundaries since its inception, and calculated risks are being taken to advance this important capability. Although this failure is disappointing, this trial has provided us with invaluable information that will allow us to learn lessons to continue moving forward,” commented General Heath Collins, the project manager.

Testing of the AGM-183A began in June 2019, with a first captive flight performed by a B-52H. Since then, six other tests of the exact nature have been carried out. All with success.

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As a reminder, the ARRW program was entrusted to Lockheed-Martin via a contract of 480 million dollars awarded in 2018. The AGM-183A consists of a thruster supposed to give hypersonic speed to a glider, called TBG [Tactical Boost Glide], which must then “slide” towards its target. This weapon must be used by B1 Lancer bombers as well as by F-15EX.

Elon Musk will make heat shields for US hypersonic missiles

The US Air Force is looking for new ways to fabricate heat shields (missiles) that could work in demanding hypersonic applications. For this purpose, a new industrial contract was concluded to research and select appropriate material technologies and production methods. Elon Musk’s company – SpaceX, was his beneficiary.

The US Air Force commissioned SpaceX to develop a concept for producing heat shields for future US missiles operating at very high air velocities. The agreement is the result of a tender procedure carried out on the initiative of the Pentagon, in which – according to general assurances – “many bidders” took part. The public tender was titled “Multipurpose thermal protection systems for hypersonics.”

The contract for USD 8.5 million was concluded between the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and SpaceX in December 2020. However, the information was not made public until the end of February this year. “The aim is to improve the technology of manufacturing thermal protection systems to enable low-cost mass production of such next-generation devices,” says the award announcement.

More about the extreme heating of the missiles

Protection against extreme heating of the missile body and its increased thermal resistance is crucial in preparing flying systems to reach hypersonic speeds (conventionally, above five times the sound barrier). On the one hand, it is about indicating the appropriate construction material that ensures the best parameters of resistance and lightness; on the other hand – the aim is to show such technology of its production that it is done using the most advanced means the lowest possible cost. It is indicated, among other things, on the possibilities offered in this subject by the industrial method of additive manufacturing (popular 3D printing).


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