Race for fastest weapon heats up as US Air Force successfully tests hypersonic weapon in the Pacific

The US Air Force has successfully tested an air-launched hypersonic weapon in the Pacific Ocean.

The test, conducted on Sunday, involved a B-52 bomber departing from Guam carrying an Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW).

This test comes as the Pentagon faces increasing pressure to keep pace in the hypersonic weapons race, especially in light of advancements by China and Russia in this field.

US Hypersonic Weapons Development in Response to Global Trends

The US Air Force’s test of the ARRW aimed to evaluate the operational hypersonic missile’s performance and gather insights into its capabilities. While the specific speed of the weapon during the test was not disclosed, previous tests have shown that the ARRW can achieve speeds at least five times faster than the speed of sound.

The test is part of the US efforts to demonstrate its capability and competitiveness in the hypersonic weapons arena, particularly against China and Russia, which have made significant strides in developing hypersonic technology.

China has been testing hypersonic glide vehicles since 2014, while Russia has recently demonstrated its hypersonic cruise missile capability.

North Korea’s Pursuit of Hypersonic Weapons

Meanwhile, North Korea has also announced a successful test of a solid-fuel engine for its new intermediate-range hypersonic missile.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) stated that Pyongyang’s pursuit of intermediate-range missiles primarily targets the US Pacific territory of Guam, where American military bases are located.

These missiles could potentially reach Alaska and, with adjustments to their range, pose a threat to US military installations in Japan’s Okinawa island.

Implications for US Strategic Posture

The test of the hypersonic weapon is significant as it demonstrates the US Air Force’s commitment to maintaining its strategic posture in the Pacific region.

The ARRW consists of a rocket booster motor and a hypersonic glide vehicle, which carries a conventional warhead and is intended to attack high-value, time-sensitive, land-based targets.

While the future of the ARRW model remains uncertain, with no plans for combat use and funding for the program not authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act, there are signs that the Defense Department may be reconsidering its stance on the ARRW program.

The successful test of the hypersonic weapon underscores the strategic significance of hypersonic technology in modern warfare.

The US Air Force’s demonstration of its hypersonic capabilities sends a clear message to China and Russia that the US remains competitive in the hypersonic domain, despite their advancements.

(With inputs from TOI)

Source: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/race-for-fastest-weapon-heats-up-as-us-air-force-successfully-tests-hypersonic-weapon-in-the-pacific/articleshow/108676667.cms