Unknown problem: Lockheed’s AGM-183A missile didn’t launch again

WASHINGTON – On December 15, the US Air Force tried to conduct a third test to launch a prototype of an AGM-183A hypersonic missile from a B-52 Stratofortress bomber, learned BulgarianMilitary.com, citing The Drive. This is the third consecutive test and again it failed.

Unknown problem: Lockheed's AGM-183A missile didn't launch again
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The reasons for the failed test are currently unknown, as confirmed in response to an inquiry sent by The Drive. Air Force Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, the service’s Program Executive Officer for Weapons, said telemetry and missile data were to be analyzed. “On Dec. 15, 2021, the Air Force Department attempted a booster test flight of the AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon [ARRW] from a B-52 Stratofortress,” the general said.

The United States had hoped that in 2021 the Air Force would conduct at least three successful tests of the missile and its accelerator, but this did not happen. The Drive described the “partial success” of the second test of the AGM-183A, which took place in July, when the prototype missile was successfully detached from the bomber, but never ignited or accelerated.

The purpose of these tests is to see and analyze the operation of the hypersonic missile booster AGM-183A, as it is the basis of the principle of operation of the hypersonic missile. According to the developments, the booster must accelerate the missile until it is released, after which the missile must fly at a hypersonic speed of at least Mach 5, according to the characteristics. This missile will fly in low orbit and will be highly maneuverable to avoid enemy air defense systems.

The Drive noted that the third consecutive failed test was an alarm. Many experts believe that developing and owning a hypersonic missile, whether launched from the air or a ground system, is a major advantage over the opponent. Hypersonic missiles are outlining the future of security, and as the authors of The Drive note, they are “the key to future military action” in the event of a conflict with Russia or China.

“What you need to be worried about is that in the last five years, or maybe longer, the United States has done nine hypersonic missile tests, and in the same time the Chinese have done hundreds,” the now-retired Air Force Gen. John Hyten, who was Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Defense Writers Group event in October. “Single digits vs hundreds is not a good place.”

Russia and China already have working hypersonic missiles and are currently developing new ones. What worries the United States is that China has recently introduced hypersonic orbital weapon, something neither Russia nor the United States has achieved so far. On November 30, a new version of the capabilities emerged from a statement by Space Force Lieutenant General Chance Saltzman, the Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Operations, Cyber, and Nuclear.

According to Saltzman, the Chinese hypersonic weapon has an orbital character, ie. may remain in orbit indefinitely until the client [or its user – ed.] decides otherwise. As we reported earlier, the mysterious thing about Chinese hypersonic weapons is the fact that during its test flight, which traveled the world at one point, it released another body that hit a target located in China. Ie Saltzman believes that China’s hypersonic glider can launch its projectiles.

“This is a categorically different system because a fractional orbit is different than suborbital,” Saltzman continued. “A fractional orbit means it can stay on orbit as long as the user determines and then it de-orbits it as a part of the flight path.”

That’s why the United States needs a successful test of the AGM-183A hypersonic missile. It will allow Lockheed Martin engineers to build on this foundation and continue, more successfully, to develop hypersonic missiles. We remind you that this year the company opened a special plant in Alabama, which will have to produce only this type of weapon.

However, so far Washington has lagged far behind in developing hypersonic weapons compared to Moscow and Beijing.


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