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U.S. Air Force conducts successful hypersonic weapon test

The U.S. Air Force announced Monday it had successfully conducted a hypersonic weapon test. 

In a release, the Air Force said a B-52H Stratofortress launched an Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) off the coast of Southern California Saturday. After separating from the aircraft, the weapon's booster ignited and burned for "expected duration," according to the release, and then achieved hypersonic speed – five times greater than the speed of sound. 

Air Force conducts latest hypersonic weapon flight test
FILE: A B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 419th Flight Test Squadron undergoes pre-flight procedures at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Aug. 8, 2020.  U.S. Air Force / Giancarlo Casem

Saturday's test marks the service's first successful test of the ARRW. The service previously conducted three consecutive tests that failed, according to the Congressional Research Service.  

The 419th Test Squadron and Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California conducted the test. 

"Our highly-skilled team made history on this first air-launched hypersonic weapon," Lt. Col. Michael Jungquist, the 419th FLTS commander and GPB CTF director, said in a statement. 

The Air Force's Program Executive Officer for Weapons, Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, praised the team in a statement for "overcoming the past year's challenges" and getting to this success. 

"We are ready to build on what we've learned and continue moving hypersonics forward," Collins said.   

The Army, Navy, and DARPA also maintain hypersonic weapons programs.  

China and Russia have developed hypersonic weapons, and U.S. defense officials have said that Russia has used hypersonics weapons an estimated 10 to 12 times in its invasion of Ukraine. 

But Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley told Congress last week that the way the Russians are using hypersonics hasn't given them much of a battlefield advantage so far. 

"Other than the speed of the weapon in terms of its effect on a given target, we are not seeing really significant or game-changing effects to date with the delivery of the small number of hypersonics that the Russians have used," Milley said. 

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