Kendall: Air Force ‘More Committed’ to HACM After Latest Unsuccessful ARRW Test
While the Air Force released scant details about the latest test of its AGM-183 airborne rapid-reaction weapon late last week, Secretary Frank Kendall told a congressional panel it was “not a success” — and given ARRW’s checkered testing history overall, Kendall indicated that the Dienst could shift focus to its other hypersonic program, the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile.
“We’re more committed to HACM than ARRW at this point,” Kendall told members of the Defense Budget Subcommittee on March 28.
While Kendall didn’t specify exactly what went wrong with the March 13 ARRW test — the second test of the All-Up system — he said the Air Force “didn’t get the data we needed from that test.” , and programming engineers are “currently investigating this and trying to understand what happened”.
After that analysis is complete, “we will likely have to make a decision about the fate of ARRW,” he added.
There are still two ARRW missiles the Air Force can use for testing, Kendall noted, and after that there might be “some potential for a leave-behind capability.”
If the service conducts tests on the two remaining missiles, “then I think we’ll double-check while we build those.”  budget and see what is done in the future.”
ARRW had intermittent issues during the testing process. Three attempts to launch a prototype version of the missile failed in 2021 before a successful test flight in May 2022, and the first test of the operationally configured weapon on December 9, 2022 was “a very successful flight which was a big step forward”. said Kendall.
The ARRW is a Boost Glide hypersonic weapon, meaning it is accelerated to speed by a rocket and then glides to its target. The Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile, or HACM for short, is an air-breathing cruise missile. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control manufactures ARRW; Raytheon is prime for HACM, which uses an engine by Northrop Grumman. In its 2024 budget, the Air Force requested $150 million for continued research, development, testing and evaluation of ARRW and $184 million for HACM.
“We have money throughout the five-year plan to move HACM forward,” Kendall said. The weapon’s underlying technology, developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory, has been “fairly successful and we see a clear role for the HACM concept,” he added.
Kendall also said that the HACM, which is smaller than ARRW, “will be compatible with more of our aircraft and will give us more combat capability overall.” The HACM is intended to be small enough to be carried by fighter aircraft, while the ARRW can only be carried by bombers.
ARRW is a mid-level acquisition program, Kendall noted, meaning it used congressional approval to skip some of the usual procedures to quickly prototype a weapon with the goal of demonstrating a usable capability in a short amount of time and that it could be produced quickly on a large scale.
In announcing the ARRW test March 13, an Air Force release said it only met “several” targets and the test team is collecting data for further analysis. The service did not provide any further information at the time. The purpose of the test was to evaluate the ARRW’s ‘end-to-end performance’ from captive carry to lunch, ‘booster ignition’, cover separation and hypersonic glide ‘to impact’.
In its fiscal 2024 budget submission, the Air Force said program activities this year will include “contracting, completing documentation and analysis, and activities to support leave-behind capability.”
Jay Pitman, Lockheed MFC’s vice president of air dominance and strikes, said at the AFA Warfare Symposium earlier this month that the company is “ready to begin production of ARRW” and has completed 26 of 27 production readiness reviews with the government.