U.S. Army envisions new land-based hypersonic weapon

The model of a new weapon system was unveiled during the House Army Caucus Breakfast at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington D.C., Feb 27, 2020.

The U.S. Army recently displayed a model of what it is calling a Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW). The LRHW is one of four priorities for the Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) team at Army Futures Command.

Requirements

The Army’s LRHW will introduce a new class of ultrafast, maneuverable, long-range missiles that will launch from mobile ground platforms. Hypersonic weapons are capable of flying at five times the speed of sound and operate at varying altitudes, making them unique from other missiles with a ballistic trajectory.

The U.S. Army is aiming to get the first long-range hypersonic weapon experimental prototype by the fiscal year 2023. The new land-based, truck-launched system should be armed with hypersonic missiles that can travel well over Mach 5 per hour.

US Army’s Hypersonic Weapons Programme

The new weapon system will provide a critical strategic weapon and a powerful deterrent against adversary capabilities for the U.S. Army. Hypersonic missiles can reach the top of the Earth’s atmosphere and remain just beyond the range of air and missile defense systems until they are ready to strike, and by then it’s too late to react. Extremely accurate, ultrafast, maneuverable and survivable, hypersonics can strike anywhere in the world within minutes.

Prime Contractors

As the prime contractor for the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) systems integration project, the Lockheed Martin-team will develop and integrate a land-based hypersonic strike prototype in partnership with the Army Hypersonic Project Office, part of the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office. The team includes: Dynetics Technical Solutions (DTS), Integration Innovation Inc. (i3), Verity Integrated Systems, Martinez & Turek, and Penta Research.

In March 2019, the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army directed the accelerated delivery of a prototype ground-launched hypersonic weapon with residual combat capability by Fiscal Year (FY) 2023. To execute this strategy, the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) has selected two prime contractors to build and integrate components of the LRHW prototype.

Contracts with Dynetics Technical Solutions

The Army also awarded a contract to DTS at an estimated value of $352 million to produce the first commercially manufactured set of Common-Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) systems. DTS selected Lockheed Martin to support integration and prototyping of this new C-HGB. The C-HGB will be available across military services to provide commonality to air, land and sea platform needs and requirements.

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“Dynetics Technical Solutions is pleased to partner with Lockheed Martin on this national defense priority. The Common-Hypersonic Glide Body and Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon programs will modernize our national capabilities and will counter the threat from our foreign adversaries. We are looking forward to the progress our teams will make as we deliver this combat capability to the warfighter,” said Steve Cook, DTS president.

The Army LRHW prototype will leverage the C-HGB and introduce a new class of ultrafast and maneuverable long-range missles with the ability to launch from ground mobile platforms. The LRHW system prototype will provide residual combat capability to soldiers by 2023.

Development Work

The Army RCCTO is responsible for delivering the prototype LRHW battery, consisting of four trucks with launchers, hypersonic missile rounds, and a command and control system. The OTA awards support the design, integration and production work that enables a series of flight tests beginning next year, leading to fielding in FY23.

The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) of US Army.

In developing the LRHW, the Army is working in close collaboration with the other services through a Joint Service Memorandum of Agreement on hypersonics design, development, testing and production. As part of the agreement, the Army will execute production of the C-HGB for all services, while the Navy will lead the glide body design beginning in FY20. This joint cooperation allows the services to leverage technologies, while tailoring them to meet specific air, land and sea requirements.

The two contract awards mark an important step in transitioning the development of Army hypersonic capabilities out of the government laboratories and into commercial production. Initially, Dynetics will work with Sandia National Laboratories to learn build of the glide body.

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