Pentagon Going Hyper over Hypersonics

Further to this post,

What the US Needs to Do to Be Ready to Fight China

it looks like the Pentagon plans/hope to equip the US services with hypersonics galore, with the Western Pacific much in mind (how much will Congress fund?):

Hypersonic Missiles: Plethora Of Boost-Glide & Cruise

“At this point we don’t want to see an either/or — we actually want to see both technologies pursued,” Lewis said of DoD’s pursuit of hypersonic boost-glide and cruise missile efforts.

Hypersonic missiles will be deployed across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, not as “niche” weapons but as a broad new capability, according to DoD’s two top officials charged with managing department wide development efforts.

“It’s not going to be one or two hypersonic weapons,” Mark Lewis, director of modernization at DoD’s Research and Engineering office headed by Mike Griffin, told reporters here today. “Hypersonics isn’t a single thing. It’s a range of capabilities. It’s intermediate range. It’s long range. It’s things coming off of ships. It’s things coming off of trucks. It’s things coming off the wings of airplanes and out of bomb bays.”

Lewis said the Pentagon’s focus this year on hypersonic weapons — weapons that can fly faster than Mach 5 — will be on transitioning from science and technology development work to prototype weapons that can be used in the field by all of the services [emphasis added].

Hypersonic weapons, and the technologies to counter them, are one of 11 cross-cutting modernization priorities that Lewis is managing. The Army, Navy, Air Force and DARPA all have at least one, if not more, efforts to build hypersonic missile capabilities. The Missile Defense Agency and the Space Development Agency (both of which fall under Griffin’s oversight) are working on technologies to detect and target enemy hypersonic missiles.

“I don’t know of any other part of the modernization portfolio where I see such close coordination between the services and the agencies,” said Lewis.

For example, DARPA’s Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapons Concept (HAWC) — an air-breathing cruise missile — is first going transition to the Air Force, said Mike White, Lewis’s assistant director for hypersonics. “But we’re also looking at some other configurations that have a broader range of capabilities.” Indeed, Sydney reported way back in 2018 that DARPA has been hoping to interest the Navy in the concept as well.

White said one of the advantages of the Air Force having canceled its the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW), which was being designed as a boost-glide system rather than a cruise missile, is that the service can now focus on transitioning the HAWC program into an Air Force program of record.

White said that the advantages of an air-breathing cruise missiles are that they are smaller, more affordable and fit on a wider range of platforms. Thus, they can be carried on fifth-generation fighter jets and bombers in large numbers. Finally, he said, it is easier to put a seeker on a cruise missile [emphasis added].

On the other hand, Lewis added, the boost-glide variants have longer ranges [emphasis added]. “That’s why at this point we don’t want to see an either/or — we actually want to see both technologies pursued,” he said.

Indeed, DoD also hopes DARPA’s Tactical Boost Glide will find its way into the arsenals of services besides the Air Force, even though the primary transition program is the Air force’s Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon

But bear in mind issues raised here:

More on US Hypersonics, Ballistic Missiles, Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control, er, Challenges

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

5 thoughts on “Pentagon Going Hyper over Hypersonics”

  1. ‘[US] Navy Targets Sub-Launched Hypersonic Test By Mid 2020s

    The Navy plans to test its developmental hypersonic missile from a submarine by the mid-2020s, and is pushing the burgeoning program through a series of static tests this year to demonstrate technologies as it gears up to equipping its Virginia-class submarines with the weapon.

    “Our goal is to have an early capability in the mid ‘20s,” Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, director of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs said. “We’re trying to take a methodical approach to this, as we work through this to make sure we get it right.”

    The weapon is being developed through a unique partnership between the Navy and Army, in which the Army buys the glide body for both services, while the Navy buys the rocket booster. After rounds of joint tests, like the successful launch last month, each service will customize the missile for its own particular needs: the Army plans to field a battery of four truck-borne launchers in 2023 while the Navy will take a few more years to work out the more complicated design specifications of a sea-launched version set to fly from Virginia-class submarines.

    Late last month, the two services launched their Common Hypersonic Glide Body from the Pacific Missile Range in Hawaii. It was the second successful test of the C-HGB, about a year-and-a-half after the first test in October 2017.

    For the rest of this year, the Navy is doubling down on its boosters, conducting a series of static fire tests to collect data before another test firing. “We’ve been crawling. Now we’re starting to walk where we’re going to get the booster design done — we’re going to static test this year — and then we will start to truly, truly run,” Wolfe said.

    In the fiscal 2021 budget request, the Navy asked for $1 billion to fund work on the Conventional Prompt Strike program. Budget documents said the program will “enable precise and timely strike capability in contested environments across surface and sub-surface platforms.” It targeted fiscal 2028 for fielding on a Virginia-class submarine with Virginia Payload Module.”

    Placing the weapon on Virginia subs would allow the US to strike any target anywhere on the planet within minutes, giving the Navy an unprecedented quick-strike punch that would help in contested environments around the first island chain in the Pacific, where the Chinese buildup has most concerned the US and its allies.

    The Virginia Payload Module gives the submarines space for 28 additional missile tubes, for a total of 40 missiles per boat. The additional missile tubes will help the Navy fill part of the gap that will be left when the four Ohio-class guided-missile submarines begin leaving the fleet in the mid-2020s…’

    Mark Collins


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