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Hypersonic Weapons

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British-made hypersonic engine passes key milestone at Colorado test site
22 Oct 2019

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Britain's Reaction Engines says a key component of its Sabre hypersonic engine passed a critical cooling test at the Colorado Air and Space Port. (Reaction Engines)

LONDON — The key component of a British hypersonic, air-breathing rocket engine with the potential to fly aircraft and space vehicles at Mach 5 speed has been successfully tested at a site in the United States.

Reaction Engines said in an Oct. 22 statement that the precooler heat exchanger element of its Sabre (synergetic air-breathing rocket engine) had run at the equivalent of five times the speed of sound at its test facility at the Colorado Air and Space Port outside of Denver.

The ultra-lightweight precooler heat exchanger is the vital component that stops the engine overheating at high flight speeds.

The air-breathing rocket engine could be a game changer, with Reaction Engines and its backers targeting hypersonic combat jets, civil aircraft, reusable space vehicles and other platforms as potential applications.

BAE Systems, Reaction Engines, Rolls-Royce and Boeing’s venture capital arm HorizonX are all stakeholders in the company.

Reaction Engines has attracted development funding from the British government, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the European Space Agency, among others.

The tests demonstrated the precooler’s ability to cool airflow at speeds significantly in excess of the operational limit of any jet engine-powered aircraft in history.

“Mach 5 is more than twice as fast as the cruising speed of the Concorde and over 50% faster than the SR-71 Blackbird aircraft—– the world’s fastest jet-engine powered aircraft," Reaction Engines said.

The Colorado tests were part of a DARPA project known as HTX, which was awarded to Reaction Engines in 2017 aimed at conducting high-temperature airflow testing in the United States.

“The company has successfully completed tests in the U.S. of its proprietary heat exchanger that exposed it to hypersonic conditions approaching 1,000 degrees centigrade (~1,800°F). This test program validated precooler performance under the high-temperature airflow conditions expected during high-speed flight, up to Mach 5,” the company said.

The heat exchanger performed its precooler function by quenching about 1,800-degree Fahrenheit temperatures in less than one-twentieth of a second.

The most recent trial followed U.S.-based tests in April that saw the precooler operate at about 788 degrees Fahrenheit — matching the thermal conditions corresponding to Mach 3.3 flight.

Richard Varvill, Reaction Engines’ co-founder and current chief technology officer, said in a statement that the latest test was a “momentous landmark.”

“The performance of our proprietary precooler technology was validated at hypersonic flight conditions and takes us closer to realising our objective of developing the first air-breathing engine capable of accelerating from zero to Mach 5,” he said.

The success of the recent test opens the way to a trial of a full Sabre core engine in the next 12 to 18 months, said a company spokesman. The firm is nearly done building a new facility in Westcott, southern England, which is to host the next phase of the engine testing.

Engineers are in the early stages of looking at what a bespoke platform to test the Sabre engine might look like. One option, expected sometime in the next decade, is a Hawk jet trainer-sized UAV with a delta wing, said the spokesman. An early application for the technology could operate on an existing turbojet.

Earlier this year the British Ministry of Defence announced funding for a program to improve performance of an existing combat jet by adapting precooler technology. The program will undertake design studies, research, development, analysis and experimentation relating to high-Mach advanced propulsion systems and will be led by Rolls-Royce, with Reaction Engines and BAE Systems as technology partners.

The then-chief of the air staff, Air Marshal Stephen Hillier, told a conference in London in July that the EJ-200 engine, which powers the Typhoon fighter, was one option under consideration.

Its use in a yet-to-be-launched, British, sixth-generation fighter program known as Tempest could be another potential application, he hinted.
 

UAE

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Russia is in a different league and can not compete with US.

Wait for @mtime7 I am sure he has a lot to answer.
 

space cadet

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don't watch CNN my american friend
----
Of course, we are in a different league.
Our weapons are better and cheaper ..
we suggest you buy Russian weapons to fight terrorism.
You can create a trading platform, like McDonald's, and we will sell you weapons.
:p
----
American, when will America create a rocket to deliver astronauts to a space station? :)
we have them, they are all museum pieces now. It's kind of like the nuclear powered cruise missiles, we retired those ideas in the 60s
 

space cadet

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.. other words, you don’t even have the technology of the 60s to send a person into space ..
:)
-----
maybe try to create an analogue of this device ..
how long will it take you? 10-100 years ?


we are leaving the small stuff to private industry and Russia, Space X a private firm should have their manned capsule ready early next year, in the US within 10yrs you should be able to just pull up to one of the spaceports, buy a ticket with your American Express card and go into earth orbit. Hey did you guys ever make it to the moon? I was reading Russia space history and I got around 1970 and had to put it down, it was just the same thing on every page, they go up, they come down, still going strong.
images
 

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The US Air Force wants to develop a hypersonic cruise missile
30 April 2020

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The X-51A Waverider, shown here under the wing of a B-52 Stratobomber, is a scramjet-powered hypersonic vehicle that demonstrated speeds in excess of Mach 5 in the early 2010s. (U.S. Air Force graphic)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force is seeking information from industry about hypersonic cruise missile technology, with the hopes of starting up a new prototyping program in the near future.

The service issued a sources sought notification on April 27 asking companies to submit information about air-breathing conventional hypersonic cruise missiles that could be launched from fighter jets and bombers.

The responses will help the Air Force determine whether to begin funding a new program of record and figure out how quickly it will be able to field the new weapon, said Air Force acquisition executive Will Roper.

“In the case of how fast we could go with the scramjet technology getting into cruise missile and missionizing it, I think we can go fast,” he told reporters April 30. “I don’t know how fast — that’s why we’re reaching out to the street. But given how far scramjet technology has matured, I’d expect that we’ll be able to go pretty quickly on this.”

According to the solicitation, the service would aim to conduct a preliminary design review in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021. The technologies offered should feature ramjet, scramjet or dual-mode propulsion — a major difference from the hypersonic weapons currently under development by the Defense Department, which are all boost glide missiles.

There are multiple advantages to fielding air-breathing and boost glide hypersonic weapons, Roper said. Boost glide missiles fly just below space, above the “thick atmosphere” where scramjet missiles would fly. That allows scramjet missiles to take on certain missions and targets that boost-glide systems cannot engage.

“In the world of competing technology, we can’t afford to have any blind spots or cede any ground. So we’re preparing to make sure we don’t cede ground on scramjet technology and hypersonic cruise missiles as a whole,” Roper said.

“We will have greater flexibility with this as a whole. That’s one reason we’re interested in accelerating the technology. It’s mature, it’s ready. It will give our operators greater flexibility.”


It will also allow the Defense Department to diversify the number of companies that can produce hypersonic weapons, he said.

“In the case of boost glide technology, a lot of our major programs in the department go to the same suppliers,” in part because those companies have pioneered materials and components that have not been replicated throughout industry, Roper said. “One of the reasons I’m excited about starting a hypersonic cruise missile program is that we will have different suppliers. It’s a very different technology.”

Roper said the hypersonic cruise missile effort would involve inputs from the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

In particular, DARPA’s Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept, or HAWC, effort could inform the new program. As part of the effort, a Raytheon-Northrop Grumman team and a Lockheed Martin-Aerojet Rocketdyne team are building scramjet-powered hypersonic vehicles.

“Scramjet technology has come a long way. I have been exceptionally impressed by what new manufacturing techniques are enabling,” Roper said. “I entered this job thinking scramjet will probably be a step behind boost glide. I am delighted to say that I was wrong. Scramjet is much more mature and ready to go than I originally thought.”

The Air Force may be embarking on a new hypersonic weapons program just months after canceling one of its two development efforts, the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon, or HCSW. Although HCSW showed promise and was on track for flight tests, the service killed it the fiscal 2021 budget rollout this February in favor of the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon.

Both ARRW and HCSW are boost-glide weapons made by Lockheed, but the Air Force decided to pursue ARRW because it was more affordable and could be carried in larger quantities by the B-52 and F-15 aircraft, Roper said.
 

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USAF expands hypersonic efforts with plans for another prototype
4th May 2020 - 12:00 GMT | by Jason Sherman in New York

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The USAF has announced plans to commence a hypersonic cruise missile prototype programme on behalf of the DoD, in an effort to foster a scramjet industrial base and diversify the fledgling portfolio of ultra-fast manoeuvring weapons beyond the current hypersonic boost-glide programme.

On 28 April, the air force published a notice announcing plans for a ‘future hypersonic weapon’ programme, asking industry for proposals to support the goal of a new air-breathing weapon powered by a supersonic combustion ramjet — or scramjet — that could be ready for preliminary design review by Q4 in FY2021.

‘We’re excited about the potential to start that programme,’ Dr Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told reporters on 29 April. ‘Scramjet is much more mature and ready to go than I originally thought, so we’re preparing to begin a hypersonic cruise missile programme.’

The latest development comes as the USAF narrowed its hypersonic boost-glide prototyping efforts from two to one in February, favouring the smaller of the two candidate weapons: the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon.

‘We will leverage work that is currently ongoing in DARPA as well as our own research laboratory,’ Roper explained, referring to the Hypersonic Air Breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC). ‘And the goal is to do what we did with boost-glide technology: get technology out of our laboratories and to help industry start to get ready for production.’

He added that recent advances in scramjet design and fabrication inform his confidence about launching a new programme.
‘I expect that we’ll be able to go pretty quickly on this,’ Roper said. “I don’t expect to be wrong on that.’

‘Scramjet is much more mature and ready to go than I originally thought’
Dr Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics

On 20 April the Pentagon unveiled a collaborative research project, begun in 2019 with Norway, to prototype advanced technologies needed for a hypersonic cruise missile. The Tactical High-speed Offensive Ramjet for Extended Range (THOR-ER) is exploring advanced solid-fuel ramjet technologies.

Mike White, the Pentagon’s assistant director for hypersonics, said an air-breathing weapon has the potential to be smaller, more affordable, fit on a wider range of platforms and also accommodate a seeker.

‘So, one of the big values it brings to the table is load out and the ability to deliver weapons to the theater,’ White told reporters in February. ‘So, instead of having a small number of weapons on the bomber platforms, we can put weapons -- large numbers on the bombers as well as the fourth- and fifth-gen fighters.’
 

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Army to Speed Up Testing of Planned Hypersonic Missile
5 Aug 2020
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A common hypersonic glide body (C-HGB) launches from the Pacific Missile Range Facility during a Defense Department flight experiment, Kauai, Hawaii, March 19, 2020. (U.S. Navy/Oscar Sosa)

The lieutenant general overseeing the Army's hypersonic weapons program said the service will soon accelerate testing of the ultra-fast missile effort to compete with Russia and China in the race to field the deadly new technology.

In a joint effort with the Navy, the Army has been designing the Common-Hypersonic Glide Body, which will be used by all U.S. services, and is preparing to transition it to the defense industry, which will mass produce the technology.

The Army will soon begin ramping up the testing schedule so it can field the first operational hypersonic missile battery by fiscal 2023, Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood, director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space, and Rapid Acquisition, said Wednesday during a Defense News space and missile defense webinar.

"The flight test program is very aggressive, and we need to be aggressive in order to keep on case and be competitive with our near-peer competitors, namely Russia and China," he said.

Following a successful test in March, "we will actually accelerate our program; our next flight test will be mid-year of 2021, followed very quickly by two shots later in 2021," Thurgood said, adding that, until now, tests had been completed every three years.

The Pentagon's hypersonics effort is under real pressure to create a new class of ultrafast, maneuverable, long-range missiles capable of flying at five times the speed of sound. The Defense Department made hypersonic technologies a priority, nearly doubling its long-term investment, with almost $5 billion more in fiscal 2020 funding for hypersonics development alone in the next five years.

The increased funding follows advancements made by adversaries such as Russia, which claims to have unveiled a hypersonic glide vehicle capable of traveling more than 20 times the speed of sound.

Over the next 12 to 14 months, the Army will transfer the high-priority glide-body work from government laboratories to Dynetics Technical Solutions, the firm selected last August to produce the first commercially manufactured set of prototype Common-Hypersonic Glide Body systems.
"We have to transition the technology ... from the government labs to our commercial industrial partners who can build this kind of weapon system in quantity," Thurgood said.

Over the past year, teams from Dynetics have been based at Sandia National Laboratories, training to build the glide bodies.

The Army has a plan to select and train a second firm if demand goes up for more glide bodies, Thurgood said.
"At the same time, we are about 14 months away from getting our first set of support equipment to the first unit, so it's happening very, very quickly," he added.

If all goes well, soldiers from the unit scheduled to receive the first hypersonics battery -- consisting of four trucks with launchers, hypersonic missile rounds, and a command-and-control system -- will participate in the flight test scheduled for the fall of 2021, Thurgood said.
"It is our intent to use those flight tests not just for engineering work but also for training work for our soldiers," he said.

In a parallel effort, the Army is also working to develop the training and tactics units will need to take this new weapon system into the fight, Thurgood added.
"It's not sufficient to show to a unit and give them a piece of kit; we have to give them the training that goes with it, we have to give them the doctrine that goes with it, the leadership training, the policy -- all of those things have to be provided in parallels to just providing them kit," he said.
 

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Check Out This B-52 Stratofortress Carrying Two AGM-183 Hypersonic Test Missiles
The USAF just completed the last captive carry flight of what's slated to become the service's first hypersonic weapon. Launch tests are next.
BY TYLER ROGOWAYAUGUST 9, 2020
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The age of hypersonic combat is fast approaching. Case in point, an Edwards Air Force Base test B-52H Stratofortress just carried out its last captive carry test flight for the service's new AGM-183 Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW). The next phase will be actual test launches of the extreme-speed, air defenses-busting, tactical boost-glide hypersonic missile system.

The B-52 involved in the tests, 60-0050 "Dragon's Inferno," has been seen with increasingly elaborate modifications associated with the ARRW test program. These include a number of apertures for filming test launches, which are painted in customary day-glow orange that is a staple of the Air force's flight test community. The aircraft has flown with a captive carry AGM-183 airframe on numerous occasions, but this is the first time we have seen the B-52 outfitted with a pair of the missiles, one of which appears to be more advanced than the previously seen test missile airframe and has a gray overall scheme.



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The mission saw the B-52 do laps with a chase F-16 over the barren desert north of Edwards AFB before breaking off and heading out over the vast range complexes off the Southern California Coast.

Other captive carry test missions of new hypersonic missiles have not gone as smoothly in the past. During a similar mission for the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), an air-breathing missile concept which has been shrouded in more secrecy than the boost-glide AGM-183, the missile fell off the B-52. Thankfully, nobody was hurt in the mishap, but it is a reminder that things can go seriously wrong even on a non-launch test mission of a new advanced missile capability.

Regardless, during the ARRW's final captive carry mission, which a number of aircraft trackers, including our photo contributor Matt Hartman, were watching closely via publically available aircraft tracking apps, the Air Force tested the missile's ability to communicate telemetry and GPS data to ground stations on the sprawling Point Mugu Sea Range. It served as a dry run of sorts for a test of ARRW's booster later this year.

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Lt. Col. Michael Jungquist, 419th Flight Test Squadron Commander and Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force Director stated the following in an Air Force release:

“The event this week demonstrated the ability to communicate with the prototype weapon; the entire team is excited to take the next step and begin energetic flight test of our first air-launched hypersonic weapons... These weapons will enable application of conventional firepower anywhere in the world at eye-watering speed.”

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The idea behind ARRW is to push an air-launched hypersonic weapon capability from concept to reality as fast as possible in order to keep up with what has become an all-out hypersonic weapons race primarily between the U.S., China, and Russia. The Air Force is set to initially buy eight AGM-183s, four for testing and four for spares, some of which are likely to turn into the force's very first operational hypersonic weapons if they all are not needed for the test effort.

It remains unclear what the range of ARRW will be or its top speed, but seeing as the system will benefit from being launched tens of thousands of feet in the air, with its ballistic missile-like booster getting it up to very high speed before releasing its glide vehicle payload, ranges well in excess of 1,000 miles have been discussed as have speeds that go far beyond the Mach 5 hypersonic threshold.

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While the ARRW program is moving ahead, costs have soared by nearly 40 percent. Still, the Air Force seems to see the AGM-183 as a must succeed initiative so that it can add a hypersonic weapon into its quiver as quickly as possible. Doing so would not only offer a breakthrough capability, but it would give other more advanced hypersonic weapon concepts time to mature.

As it sits now, the Air Force could declare the AGM-183 operational by sometime in 2022 if everything goes as planned, and that is a very big if. Flight tests will prove just how mature this technology actually is. So, for better or worse, the Air Force and testers at Edwards AFB will learn relatively soon just how realistic their near-term hypersonic weapon dreams actually are.

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Contact the author: [email protected]
 

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Russia’s Avangard Glide Vehicle ‘More Deterrent Weapon Than Nuclear Bomb’, Chinese Media Claims

12.09.2020
by Oleg Burunov

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© Photo : Ministry of Defence of the Russia Federation

Late last year, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed that the country’s first Strategic Missile Forces regiment armed with the nuclear-capable Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle had entered combat duty.

Although the US remains the country with the most comprehensive air defence system in the world, even this missile shield is unable to intercept Russia's Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, the Chinese news outlet Sina reports.
The vehicle’s characteristics, especially its strike speed and resistance to interception, “make the Avangard missile a more deterrent weapon than a nuclear bomb”, Sina claimed.
The news outlet added that by showcasing the Avangard, Russia is sending a message to the US that “the existing American air defences are useless when it comes to intercepting Russian missiles”.

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Avangard hypersonic missile system
©Photo : Russian Defence Ministry

The remarks came a few days after The Washington Post (WaPo) published excerpts of veteran American journalist Bob Woodward’s soon-to-be-released book on the Trump presidency, in which the reporter specifically cited POTUS as mentioning what he described as an “incredible” US nuclear weapons system.
“I have built a nuclear - a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before [...]", Trump told Woodward, adding that the US has “stuff” Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping “have never heard about before”.
Even though Trump did not elaborate, some quickly suggested that POTUS was probably referring to the W76-2, a new low-yield nuclear warhead designed to fit on the US Navy’s Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

The WaPo report followed Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov noting last week that it was Washington’s move to modernise low-yield nukes, not Russia’s actions, that is destabilising the global nuclear deterrent. Antonov was responding to US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Robert Soofer, who earlier declared that Russia was initiating an arms race in the sphere of non-strategic weapons.
Earlier in September, Soofer said that bipartisan support for the creation of the W76-2 remains “divided”, as he outlined the US’ Nuclear Deterrence Strategy, which “places a premium on ensuring the survivability of nuclear forces that can threaten the adversary”.

Avangard Missile Enters Service

In late 2019, Russian Strategic Missile Forces commander Col-Gen Sergei Karakaev confirmed that the first Avangard-armed missile regiment had been stationed at the Yasnensky missile compound in the Orenburg region, about 1,200 km southeast of Moscow.

The statement was preceded by Russian President Vladimir Putin telling the country’s Federation Assembly in February 2019 that the significance of creating the Avangard hypersonic glide vehiclecan be likened to the creation of the Earth’s first artificial satellite.

Presenting the Avangard missile during his Federation Assembly address the year before, Putin said that the missile is capable of changing course mid-flight, thereby avoiding being tracked and intercepted.
He noted that the speed of the missile, which “flies like a meteorite or a fire ball”, was in excess of Mach 20 and that it is capable of penetrating any existing missile defence system.
 

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Hypervelocity Projectile

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The Hypervelocity Projectile (HVP) is a next-generation, common, low drag, guided projectile capable of executing multiple missions for a number of gun systems.

As a key industry partner to the U.S. Department of Defense, BAE Systems is developing an HVP for the U.S. Armed Forces and its allies. This projectile will provide lethality and performance enhancements to current and future gun systems and allow for technological growth while reducing development, production, and total ownership costs.

The HVP is a next-generation, common, low drag, guided projectile capable of executing multiple missions for a number of gun systems, such as the Navy 5-Inch; Navy, Marine Corps, and Army 155-mm systems; and future electromagnetic (EM) railguns. Types of missions performed will depend on the gun system and platform, but range from Naval Surface Fire, to Cruise and Ballistic Missile Defense, Anti-Surface Warfare and other future Naval mission areas.

The HVP’s low drag aerodynamic design enables high-velocity, maneuverability, and decreased time-to-target. These attributes, coupled with accurate guidance electronics, provide low-cost mission effectiveness against current threats and the ability to adapt to air and surface threats of the future.

The high-velocity compact design relieves the need for a rocket motor to extend gun range. Firing smaller, more accurate rounds decreases the likelihood for collateral damage and provides for deeper magazines and improved shipboard safety.


 

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SpaceX, L3 to provide hypersonic tracking satellites for Space Development Agency

06.10.2020

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A concept of a hypersonic weapon from Dynetics, which will get the first crack at learning to build the hypersonic glide body developed by federally funded Sandia National Laboratories under a U.S. Army contract. (Artist rendering courtesy of Dynetics)


WASHINGTON — SpaceX and and L3 Harris will contribute satellites to track hypersonic weapons to the Space Development Agency’s planned mega-constellation, with the nascent agency announcing Oct. 5 it has selected the two companies to build its first wide field of view satellites.

Under the contracts, each company will design and develop four satellites equipped with wide field of view (WFOV) overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensors. Operating in low Earth orbit, the sensors will make up the inaugural tranche of the SDA’s tracking layer — the Pentagon’s new effort to track hypersonic weapons from space.

“This SDA tracking layer is going to consist of a proliferated, heterogeneous constellation of WFOV space vehicles that provide persistent global coverage and custody capability. That’s going to combine with activities in the Missile Defense Agency as they build toward their Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) medium field of view (MFOV) space vehicles,” Acting Deputy Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Mark Lewis told C4ISRNET.

Per the announcement, SpaceX will receive $149 million, while L3 Harris will receive $193 million. According to SDA Director Derek Tournear, the awards were the result of a full and open competition, with the selection based purely on technical merit.

SpaceX has made waves with its Starlink constellation — a series of satellites built to provide commercial broadband from low Earth orbit — and the Department of Defense has tested using Starlink to connect various weapon systems. However, the company does not have a history building OPIR sensors.

According to Tournear, the company will work with partners to develop the sensor, which it will then place on a bus it is providing. SpaceX already has a production line in place to build a bus based on its Starlink technologies, added Tournear.

“SpaceX had a very credible story along that line — a very compelling proposal. It was outstanding,” he said. “They are one of the ones that have been at the forefront of this commercialization and commodification route.”

L3 Harris will develop an OPIR solution based on decades of experience with small satellites, small telescopes and OPIR technologies.

“They had an extremely capable solution. They have a lot of experience flying affordable, rapid, small satellite buses for the department,” noted Tournear. “They had the plant and the line in place in order to produce these to hit our schedule.”

Tracking hypersonic weapons
The contracts are the latest development as the SDA fleshes out its National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA), a new constellation to be comprised of hundreds of satellites primarily operating in low Earth orbit. These satellites are expected to make up tranche 0 of the SDA’s tracking layer, which will provide global coverage for tracking hypersonic threats.

The glue that holds the NDSA together will be the transport layer, a space-based mesh network made up of satellites connected by optical intersatellite links. Like most planned SDA satellites, WFOV satellites will plug directly into that network.

“The idea is it connects to the National Defense Space Architecture — the NDSA transport layer — via optical intersatellite links,” said Lewis. “And that will enable low latency dissemination for missile warning indications. It will provide track directly to the joint war fighters.”

SDA issued two contracts in August for its first 20 transport layer satellites. York Space Systems was awarded $94 million to build its 10 satellites, while Lockheed Martin was awarded $188 million for its 10 systems.

That transport layer capability is essential to the tracking layer’s mission.

Because they are so much closer to the Earth’s surface than the U.S. Space Force’s missile tracking satellites in geosynchronous orbit, the WFOV sensors will naturally have a much more limited field of vision. In order to track globe traversing hypersonic missiles, the WFOV satellites will have to work together.

Once the first satellite picks up a threat, it will begin tracking it until it disappears over the horizon. During that time, it is expected to transmit its tracking data to other WFOV satellites over the transport layer. So as the first satellite loses sight of the threat over the horizon, the next WFOV is ready to pick it up, and so on and so forth.

From there, the WFOV satellites will pass the tracking data — either directly or via the transport layer — on to the medium field of view satellites being developed by the Missile Defense Agency as their HBTSS.

“SDA is developing the low cost proliferated WFOV space vehicles that provide the missile warning and the tracking information for national defense authorities, as well as tracking and cueing data for missile defense elements,” explained Lewis. “Meanwhile, the Missile Defense Agency is developing the high resolution HBTSS MFOV space vehicles — those can receive cues from other sources including the WFOV system — and they’ll provide low latency fire control quality tracking data.”

“The MFOV HBTSS satellites will then be able to hone in and actually be able to calculate the fire control solution for that missile, send those data to the transport satellites with a laser [communication] system … and then the transport system will disseminate that to the weapons platform as well as back to" the continental United States, where MDA can broadcast that information, added Tournear.

MDA issued $20 million contracts to Northrop Grumman, Leidos, Harris Corporation and Raytheon to develop HBTSS prototypes in Oct. 2019. Tournear noted that proposals for HBTSS “are being written as we speak.”

Together, HBTSS and the SDA’s tracking layer are meant to provide the data needed to take out hypersonic threats — which Congress is increasingly concerned by.

“It’s part of an integrated DoD OPIR strategy. So the wide field of view sensors and the medium field of view sensors are really integral to this whole NDSA system and legacy strategic missile warning capability,” said Lewis, praising MDA and SDA for working together to build a heterogeneous solution.

Spiral development
Of course, this initial tranche won’t provide global coverage up front. As part of its spiral development approach, SDA plans to continuously add satellites to its mega-constellation in two-year tranches, with each tranche including more advanced technology. The tracking layer is not expected to reach global coverage until 2026, said Tournear.

But as the constellation is built out, the more limited initial capabilities will be used to help integrate the space-based assets with war fighters.

“We call tranche 0 our war fighter immersion tranche,” said Tournear. “What that means is, its goal is to provide the data in a format that the war fighters are used to seeing on tactical timelines that they can be expected to see once we actually become operational. The whole purpose of tranche 0 is to allow the war fighters to start to train and develop tactics, techniques and procedures so that they can create operational plans for a battle where they would actually incorporate these data.”

With tranche 1 in 2024, the tracking and transport layers will essentially reach initial operating capability, said Tournear. That will include persistent regional coverage.

According to Tournear, the tranche 0 satellites are set to launch in September 2022.

Tournear told C4ISRNET his agency is planning to issue a separate solicitation for launch services later this week. That solicitation will cover all of the tranche 0 satellites, including the 20 transport layer satellites the agency ordered in August, the eight WFOV satellites and the HBTSS satellites.
 

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First flight test for US Air Force’s hypersonic booster didn’t go as planned

By: Valerie Insinna  
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WASHINGTON — The first rocket booster test of the U.S. Air Force’s hypersonic AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon failed when the vehicle did not launch during an April 5 flight.

During tests over Point Mugu Sea Range off the coast of California, a B-52 Stratofortress bomber attempted to launch the ARRW booster vehicle. However, “the test missile was not able to complete its launch sequence” and the bomber returned to Edwards Air Force Base, California, with the test vehicle, the Air Force said in a statement.

The service plans to study the missile to understand why it didn’t launch, then make alterations and attempt to fire it in a future test, the service said.

“The ARRW program has been pushing boundaries since its inception and taking calculated risks to move this important capability forward,” said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, the Air Force’s program executive officer for its armaments directorate. “While not launching was disappointing, the recent test provided invaluable information to learn from and continue ahead. This is why we test.”

Aside from demonstrating the safe separation of the ARRW booster from the B-52 during the April 5 test, the Air Force had intended to evaluate the performance of the missile at operational speeds through ignition and the boost phase, as well as simulate the separation of the booster from the glide vehicle.

The test was carried out by the 419th Flight Test Squadron and the Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force at Edwards AFB.

The ARRW test missile was delivered to the base on March 1, the service said in a March 5 release, and the first booster test flight was due to follow aboard a B-52 bomber “in the next 30 days.”

“The BTF-1 test vehicle is complete and is progressing through ground testing to verify its readiness for flight. The team has successfully dealt with COVID challenges and resolved technical findings not uncommon in a first-of-a-kind weapon system. We have minimized schedule delays while maintaining a laser focus on engineering rigor,” Collins said then, according to the news release.

The service plans to conduct additional booster and all-up-round test flights throughout 2021. The ARRW program previously flew seven captive carriage flight tests, where the weapon is carried by an aircraft but not released, allowing for the service to collect data on how the weapon impacts the flight profile of the aircraft.

The Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a contract worth up to $480 million for ARRW development activities in 2018, including the critical design review, testing and production readiness support.

In fiscal 2021, Congress allotted $386 million to the Air Force for hypersonic prototyping — an increase of $5 million over the service’s budget request. But that funding came with sacrifices. Last year, the Air Force announced that it would cancel a separate hypersonic weapons program, the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon also produced by Lockheed, due to budget constraints that forced the service to downselect to a single effort.

Although the HCSW program had shown promise, ARRW had a more “unique glide body design” when compared to HCSW or some of the other hypersonic weapons under development by the Navy and Army, a service spokeswoman said at the time.

Both ARRW and HCSW are boost glide hypersonic weapons, which fly just below space, but the service is also interested in hypersonic cruise missiles that would be able to take a flight path with lower trajectories.
 

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Update: US Air Force's ARRW fails first booster vehicle flight test

08 April 2021
by Pat Host

The US Air Force (USAF)/Lockheed Martin AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) conventional hypersonic glide weapon prototype failed its first booster vehicle flight test on 5 April, according to a service statement.

The ARRW failed to complete its launch sequence and did not deploy from its Boeing B-52H Stratofortress heavy bomber carriage aircraft. The B-52H flew over the Point Mugu Sea Range near California, intending to fire the ARRW booster test vehicle. Instead, the weapon returned with the B-52H to Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California.
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A US Air Force airman helps line up the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) as it is loaded under the wing of a B-52H on 6 August 2020. The ARRW failed its first booster vehicle flight test on 5 April as it could not complete its launch sequence and did not deploy from the B-52H carriage aircraft. (US Air Force)

This flight test was to demonstrate the booster’s ability to reach operational speeds and collect other important data. In addition to booster performance, the test vehicle was to also validate safe separation and controllability of the missile away from the carrier B-52H, through ignition and boost phase, all the way to separation of a simulated glide vehicle. The ARRW test vehicle was delivered to Edwards AFB on 1 March.

The service did not return a request for comment prior to publication. Lockheed Martin deferred comment to the USAF on 6 April.
 
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