To Moscow in minutes – the US tested a LEO missile warhead

WASHINGTON, BM – The first American hypersonic missile to be launched from the air [via a bomber] AGM-183A completed the first test of the ability of the warhead to carry. According to sources, the tests were conducted at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

To Moscow in minutes - the US tested a LEO missile warhead
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Following the tests, the United States did not release data on the strength of the explosion and the degree of destruction that the warhead of the AGM-183A missile created. However, if we go back in time a bit, we can reveal a bit of the “curtain” for the blasting method. Observers say it was the Lethality Enhanced Ordnance [LEO] developed by Northrup Grumman in 2018 when the company conducted its first warhead blasting tests with this method.

The connection, in this case, is that the team worked on LEO technology years ago, today it is part of a joint team led by another big game – Lockheed Martin to develop missiles for a rapid conventional strike. And although three years ago, the source of this type of warhead blast was Northrup, it was Lockheed Martin who won the contract with the US government to develop the AGM-183A missile. Therefore, it is assumed that LEO technology can be used for the warhead of this missile.

“LEO is a fairly generic technology: PBXN-110 explosive fill and fragmentation layer,” Pat Nolan, the Vice President and General Manager of Northrop Grumman’s Missile Products division, told Jane’s after the company’s warhead test in 2018. “It’s how we array those fragments that determine the desired effects.”

Another reason why Lethality Enhanced Ordnance is thought to be the hypersonic warhead detonation method is the fact that Portroup Grumman has made dozens of successful attempts over the past three years, and has collected a large amount of data from them.

If LEO technology was used in the warhead blast test, experts suggest that the military used a polymer-bonded explosive with 88% HMX content, also called octogen, which is a powerful and relatively insensitive nitroamine high explosive. This composition is precisely the explosive PBXN-110, mentioned above by Pat Nolan.

The Americans have high hopes for the AGM-183A ARRW missile. It is assumed, but there is still no officially confirmed information that the speed of the missile will be in the range between 6.5 and 8 Mach. This means that within 12 minutes the rocket has traveled 1,600 kilometers, or in understandable words – it will reach Moscow in 20 minutes, to Beijing in just over half an hour. But this information is a mathematical calculation based on the carrier of the hypersonic rocket – B-52H Stratofortress. For another medium, the data can be changed.

On April 5 2021, as we 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,” General Heath Collins, the project manager said.

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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