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US Air Force carries out first fully successful test of air-launched hypersonic missile

By Oren Liebermann, CNN

The US Air Force carried out the first successful test of its complete air launched hypersonic missile, the Air Force said in a statement, a program that had previously suffered a series of setbacks because of testing failures.

A full prototype of the Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, known in short as ARRW, was launched from a B-52 off the coast of California on Friday.

The AGM-183A missile achieved hypersonic speeds more than five times the speed of sound and it detonated in the terminal area, the 96th Test Wing said. All of the objectives of the test were met, according to the Air Force.

The ARRW is a boost-glide missile that uses a booster rocket to accelerate a projectile to hypersonic speeds. A glide vehicle then separates from the booster and uses inertia to travel to its target at hypersonic speeds.

This test was the first of the entire system, known as an All-Up-Round test. Previous launches focused on the booster rocket.

The ARRW missile suffered a series of failures in testing last year, forcing the Air Force to delay the project. The Air Force described the failures as “anomalies.”

The Pentagon has placed an increased emphasis on the testing and development of hypersonic weapons, especially as China and Russia have shown advancements in their own programs.

Russia has deployed its hypersonic Kinzhal missiles in Ukraine, marking perhaps the first time such weapons have been used in war. And during a test last year, a Chinese hypersonic missile flew around the world before hitting its target.

Hypersonic weapons travel at speeds greater than Mach 5, or approximately 4,000 miles per hour, making them difficult to detect and intercept in time. The missiles can also maneuver and vary altitude, allowing them to evade current missile defense systems.

As the world’s other superpowers pushed forward with their hypersonic weapons development, the US found itself falling further behind as a result of testing failures.

In May, another hypersonic system called the Common Hypersonic Glide Body failed during its first complete test because of an “anomaly,” the Pentagon said. The previous test of the system, a joint venture between the Army and the Navy, had also failed.

Since then, the Pentagon has worked to increase the pace of hypersonic testing and its research and development efforts, enlisting universities to assist with some of the more complicated aspects of the advanced missiles.

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CNN’s Ellie Kaufman contributed reporting.

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