Lockheed Martin, an American corporation, will receive almost $ 1 billion to develop a hypersonic complex called the “Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW, AGM-183A) missile,” the Pentagon’s website reported. The new weapons are planned to be placed on board strategic bombers.

Under a $ 989 million contract, Lockheed Martin is due to work on the ARRW project, test and prepare the rocket for commercial production.

It is planned that all design work will be completed in 2021, and after another year, the US Air Force should receive hypersonic weapons. Thus, all obligations under the contract must be fulfilled by the end of 2022.

  • Fighters at the US Air Force Eglin Air Force Base, Florida
  • Gettyimages.ru
  • © Smith Collection / Gado

According to the US Defense Department, the ARRW unit will be able to reach speeds of more than 5 Machs, which should allow it to overcome the enemy’s missile defense systems.

“The site will be Orlando, Florida. Expected completion date: December 31, 2022. Total nominal value of the contract: $ 988,832,126. At the time of the conclusion of the agreement, an amount of $ 23,000,000 is provided for the performance of tasks related to research, development, testing, and evaluation. the customer is endowed with the US Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, Eglin Air Base, Florida, ”the Pentagon said in a statement.

It is also specified that this is not the first contract of Lockheed Martin and the US government as part of a program to create an air-based hypersonic missile. Previous work was carried out under a contract worth $ 480 million, signed in August 2018. Under the terms of this agreement, it was assumed that the development of weapons would be completed by 2021.

Last June in California, the first aerodynamic test of the AGM-183A ARRW mass-size missile model was conducted on the Boeing B-52H strategic bomber. The aircraft carrying a rocket on an external sling took off from the Edwards air base. According to experts, constructively the AGM-183A is a solid fuel aeroballistic missile with a detachable warhead equipped with a Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) rocket engine. The engine is being developed under the auspices of the Pentagon Advanced Research Projects Office (DARPA) and the US Air Force.

Analogs of “Dagger” and “Vanguard”

Soviet and American designers thought about creating hypersonic weapons in the last century. Then the USSR and the USA even began a number of experimental developments. So, engineers from both countries worked in parallel on the creation of vertical launch spaceplanes that could develop hypersonic speed. However, the technologies and materials of that time did not allow to implement such projects - the object is experiencing too much load at hypersonic speed, experts say.

After decades, the creation of this type of equipment has become a real challenge. In 2018, during a message to the Federal Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the appearance in the arsenal of the Russian army a whole range of hypersonic weapons. It turned out that the “Dagger” aircraft missile system took up pilot combat duty in December 2017.

  • Hypersonic rocket "Dagger"
  • RIA News
  • © Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

Another hypersonic complex, the Vanguard, which uses a ground-based ballistic missile to launch, passed successful tests in December 2018. The unit, capable of speeds of Mach 27, will enter combat duty by the end of this year.

Russia also developed the Zircon hypersonic anti-ship sea-launched missile, which will be armed with both submarine and surface ships of the Russian fleet. As Vladimir Putin noted at a defense meeting on December 2, the Russian Navy should receive frigates and submarines modified for the use of Zircon missiles in the coming years.

The appearance of hypersonic weapons in the arsenal of the Russian Federation was an unpleasant surprise for Washington, experts say. As stated in the September report of the research service of the US Congress, at the moment, the American side does not have any means of protection against hypersonic weapons of possible opponents, nor its own programs to create military equipment of this type.

A congressional report was presented in response to a Pentagon request for additional funding for hypersonic research. According to the authors of the document, the US military will not be able to resist Russian hypersonic weapons until the mid-2020s, although at present, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Ground Forces are engaged in research in this area.

The head of the Pentagon, Mark Esper, adheres to a different point of view, who expects that the US military will be able to receive hypersonic weapons for "a couple of years." The minister said this in an interview with Fox News.

A similar forecast was presented at the end of November by the head of the US Air Force Logistics Command, General Arnold Bunch. Speaking at a press conference, he said that both types of hypersonic weapons, the development of which is supervised by the US Air Force, had reached initial combat readiness as early as 2022. We are talking about Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) and another development - Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW).

According to experts, if the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) should become an analogue of the Russian "Dagger", then the HCSW can become a weapon similar to the Russian Avangard complex.

Political reasons

Note that at present, the most successful hypersonic project in the United States is the X-51 Waverider rocket, the development of which was launched in 2003 by Boeing Corporation. The first successful test of the X-51 was in 2013, when the rocket covered a distance of 426 km, developing a speed of Mach 5.1. However, later on the fate of this development, the media reported very little.

  • Pentagon Head Mark Esper
  • Reuters
  • © DoD / Lisa Ferdinando

As military expert Mikhail Tymoshenko suggested in an interview with RT, it is highly likely that the new AGM-183A hypersonic missile is created on the basis of the X-51 Waverider.

“It seems to be about creating an analogue of our“ Dagger ”based on the X-51 Waverider. The rocket was tested several years ago, and then the developers were faced with the fact that the engine crashed too early - probably when the rocket entered the denser layers of the atmosphere. If this problem is not solved, then development will not advance, ”Tymoshenko noted.

According to him, the development, which was then reported at the Pentagon, was at such a stage that it could hardly be considered a full-fledged weapon.

A similar point of view is held by corresponding member of the Academy of Military Sciences of Russia Alexander Bartosh. According to him, the development of such hypersonic systems is very time-consuming, and even if the United States has some kind of base, then a period of one or two years is not enough to finalize the rocket.

“Now the Pentagon calls such a tight deadline for creating hypersonic weapons that these statements resemble bluffs. Of course, in the future, the United States will probably be able to overcome its lag in the field of hypersound, having a serious scientific and industrial base. But this takes at least five to six years, ”Bartosh said in a conversation with RT.

The main obstacle for American developers is still the lack of unique materials that can withstand extreme temperature overloads and transmit radio signals at hypersonic speeds. This point of view was expressed in a conversation with RT by military expert Yuri Knutov.

“Without this, it will be impossible to control a hypersonic device, and as a result, the accuracy characteristics of the weapon will suffer very seriously. Another problem is the creation of a ramjet, which could accelerate the aircraft to 5 Machs and more. The trials reported by the media ended in failure. Not only the power plant, but also the navigation equipment could not withstand the overloads, ”the expert added.

In his opinion, to catch up on this area, the United States will need about five to seven years.

“Most likely, the promises to complete work on a combat hypersonic missile in 2021, sounding in the United States, are due, inter alia, to political reasons. Next year, elections will be held in the United States, and the Trump administration needs to make excuses to society for lagging behind Russia in the field of hypersonic weapons, ”Knutov summed up.