The Air Force has announced the successful completion of a simulated hypersonic ‘kill chain’ drill.

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According to the US Air Force, a B-52 bomber successfully tested the theoretical hypersonic kill chain, using a hypersonic missile to neutralise a target.

During the Northern Edge 21 drills in Alaska, the drill was a “successful simulated hypersonic kill chain employment from sensor to shooter and back,” according to an Air Force release on Thursday.

As the B-52 flew from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska and back, it collected target data from sensors more than 1,000 nautical miles away at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

It then used an AGM-183 Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon to “successfully take a simulated shot of the target from 600 nautical miles away,” employing the Beyond Line of Sight Kill Chain concept, the statement said.

The AGM-183 ARRW is a hypersonic vehicle that is accelerated by a missile to a maximum effective speed of Mach 20, or around 13,000 mph, before gliding towards its target.

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“We were really exercising the data links that we needed in order to complete that kill chain loop, and then get the feedback to the players in the airspace that the simulated hypersonic missile was fired and effective,” said Lt. Col. Joe Little, deputy commander of the 53rd Test Management Group based at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

The procedure was managed in its entirety through the All-Domain Operations Capability command and control concept, which connects sensors used by the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Space Force into a single network.

Previously, each division formed its own tactical network that was incompatible with those of the other branches.

The Pentagon said in February that it plans to field offensive hypersonic missiles by the early- to mid-2020s, citing Russia and China’s aggressive pursuit of hypersonic systems in recent years.

The United States Air Force and Lockheed Martin confirmed a successful hypersonic air-to-ground system test in August 2020, using a B-52 bomber and an AGM-183 ARRW missile at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

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The weapon’s first booster rocket failed to fire in a previous test in April 2020 at Point Mugu Sea Range in California.

 

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