Aerojet Rocketdyne will design propulsion concepts and technologies for a novel ground-launched tactical weapon system under a U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract potentially valued at $13.4 million.
DARPA’s Operational Fires, or OpFires, program seeks to develop a mobile missile system that would be capable of delivering a variety of tactical payloads to different ranges that could rapidly and precisely engage time-sensitive targets. The program will leverage and integrate ongoing investments being made in hypersonic tactical boost glide vehicles.
“We are very pleased to have been selected by DARPA to develop propulsion technologies to support the OpFires program,” said Eileen Drake, CEO and president of Aerojet Rocketdyne. “Our innovative team has a tremendous amount of experience developing hypersonic and missile technologies, such as solid rocket booster motors, divert and attitude control systems, warheads and scramjet propulsion systems. We look forward to applying our experience to the OpFires program.”
The first phase of the OpFires program is focused on the design and development of an advanced solid rocket motor and is valued at $4.6 million over a 12-month period. The award contains an option for Phase 2, under which Aerojet Rocketdyne would build and test at least two representative booster test articles. That option, if exercised, would be worth $8.8 million over 12 months.
OpFires is intended to address the U.S. military’s requirement for a long-range tactical missile capable of penetrating enemy air defenses to engage high-value, time-sensitive targets. The system would be rapidly deployable, flexible and fit within existing ground force infrastructure.
Aerojet Rocketdyne supplies both solid-fueled and air-breathing propulsion systems for hypersonic flight. The company provided both types of systems for the joint Air Force-DARPA-NASA X-51A Waverider, the first vehicle to fly at hypersonic speed under the power of a supersonic-combustion ramjet, or scramjet, engine. More recently, the company successfully tested a dual-mode ramjet/scramjet engine, technology that when combined with a gas turbine engine has the potential to one day propel a vehicle from a standstill – current scramjet engines can only operate at high speeds – to hypersonic speed, which is generally defined as Mach 5 or faster.