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Air Force's hypersonic missile booster fails to launch from B-52 in first test

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress returned a hypersonic missile booster test vehicle to Edwards Air Force Base on Monday after an issue with the missile's launch sequence. Photo by Nichelle Anderson/U.S. Air Force
A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress returned a hypersonic missile booster test vehicle to Edwards Air Force Base on Monday after an issue with the missile's launch sequence. Photo by Nichelle Anderson/U.S. Air Force | License Photo

April 6 (UPI) -- The Air Force's first booster vehicle in a hypersonic weapons test this week failed to launch, the service said on Tuesday.

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress took off over the Point Mugu Sea Range in California on Monday with the intention of firing the first booster test vehicle for the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon program.

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But the booster was not able to complete its launch sequence, Air Force officials said, and the test missile was retained on the aircraft and brought back to California's Edwards Air Force Base.

"The ARRW program has been pushing boundaries since its inception and taking calculated risks to move this important capability forward," Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, armament directorate program executive officer, said Tuesday in an Air Force press release.

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"While not launching was disappointing, the recent test provided invaluable information to learn from and continue ahead. This is why we test," Collins said.

The Air Force noted that this would have been the eighth flight test for the ARRW program after seven captive carriage missions.

The seven prior tests include a successful test last August at Edwards AFB.

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Hypersonic weapons can travel at five times the speed of sound or higher, making them more difficult to intercept or defend against.

In February, the Department of Defense announced plans to field offensive hypersonic weapons by the early- to mid-2020s and develop reusable hypersonic systems by the early- to mid-2030s.

According to a Government Accountability Office report released in late March, the United States has spent about $14 billion the development of hypersonic weapons and related technologies since 2015, through 70 identified efforts.

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The GAO noted that dozens of Department of Defense agencies are working on hypersonics development and need guidance and coordination, including better defined roles for those leading the projects.

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