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On Monday, the U.S. Air Force announced that on December 9 it had successfully tested its AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) hypersonic missile from a B-52H Stratofortress bomber off the coast of Southern California.
The successful testing of the hypersonic missile comes amid mounting concerns that both Russia and China are already developing hypersonic weapons of their own.
According to the Air Force, the missile, which is built by Lockheed Martin, traveled at more than 5 times the speed of sound as it followed its projected trajectory and detonated on target.
In a statement released by the Air Force, Brig. Gen Jason Bartolomei said, "The ARRW team successfully designed and tested an air-launched hypersonic missile in five years." He added, "I am immensely proud of the tenacity and dedication this team has shown to provide a vital capability to our warfighter."
The AMG-183A ARRW is a boost-glide missile that uses a booster rocket to accelerate a missile to hypersonic speeds and then separates from the missile, which continues and uses inertia to travel at hypersonic speeds.
While two previous tests of the missile focused on the booster rocket, the "All-Up-Around" test on December 9 tested all systems of the prototype.
The U.S. has been eager to ramp up its development of hypersonic weapons due to the Chinese and Russians being ahead in the development of such weapons. On March 19, in an operational report released by the Russian military ministry, it was revealed that Russia had used a hypersonic missile to destroy an underground storage site for aircraft ammunition and missiles in Ukraine.
Top U.S. officials began urging that the U.S. restart stalled military research after a secret Chinese hypersonic missile circled the earth last year before striking a target.
Rick Fisher with the International Assessment and Strategy Center said, "China has effectively taken the lead in the hypersonic weapons race due to the breadth and depth of its technology investments." Fisher concluded his remarks by saying, "We are only seeing the beginning of their weapons developments in this field." Fisher noted concern that whichever country develops and uses hypersonic weapons first will dominate the international order in the future. There is much at stake for the U.S. in this modern arms race.