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With eye on China, US tests hypersonic missile in Pacific for first time

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NEW DELHI: The US Air Force has conducted its first hypersonic cruise missile test in the Pacific, demonstrating to China that America remains a significant competitor in the hypersonic weapons field, a sector where China is often viewed as the frontrunner.
As per a CNN report, on March 17, a B-52 bomber from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam launched a “full prototype operational hypersonic missile,” known as the All-Up-Round AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), according to an Air Force spokesperson.This event marks the first time such a test has taken place over the Pacific, with previous trials conducted closer to the US mainland.
The ARRW, designed for striking high-value, quickly changing land targets, was tested over 1,600 miles away at the Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. Hypersonic glide vehicles like the ARRW can travel at speeds exceeding Mach 5 and possess the ability to maneuver and change altitude, challenging current missile defense systems with their speed and agility, the CNN report said.
The specifics of the missile’s performance during the test, such as speed and distance covered or target accuracy, were not disclosed by the Air Force. The statement highlighted that the exercise provided significant insights and enhanced the evaluation capabilities necessary for the development of future hypersonic systems.
Despite uncertainties surrounding the ARRW’s future, with no confirmed plans for its combat deployment and the absence of dedicated funding in the latest defense budget, there is speculation that the program might see renewed interest in light of advancements by adversaries.
The backdrop of this US military action is a global race in hypersonic technology, with China and Russia currently leading. China has been actively testing hypersonic vehicles capable of carrying nuclear and conventional payloads since 2014. Similarly, Russia has engaged in its hypersonic capabilities, deploying a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile against Ukraine.
This recent test sends a deliberate message to Beijing, highlighting US commitment to maintaining strategic balance in the Pacific despite other global challenges. However, while this test reinforces US presence in the hypersonic domain, it doesn’t drastically alter the dynamic with China’s advancements, the CNN report said.

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