The joint DARPA/U.S. Army Operational Fires (OpFires) program is moving into Phase 3 to further develop and integrate ongoing propulsion system designs into a missile system, including the launcher, electronics, and payload.
OpFires aims to develop and demonstrate a novel ground-launched system, enabling hypersonic boost glide weapons to penetrate modern enemy air defenses and rapidly and precisely engage critical time-sensitive targets from a highly mobile launch platform.
The OpFires program will conduct a series of subsystem tests designed to evaluate component design and system compatibility, and culminate in integrated end-to-end flight tests. DARPA has awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control to lead the integration effort.
“We made excellent progress in the first two phases, which focused on the propulsion technologies required to deliver diverse payloads, and I am confident in our approach in the next phase of the OpFires program,” said Maj. Amber Walker (USA), program manager for OpFires in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “This award furthers our ability to integrate new technologies and deliver enhanced capabilities in a highly mobile, robust ground-launched platform to overwhelm adversary positions.”
DARPA/U.S. Army OpFires Program
OpFires, a joint DARPA/U.S. Army program, aims to develop and demonstrate a novel ground-launched missile system equipped with hypersonic tactical boost glide vehicles that can penetrate modern enemy air defenses and rapidly and precisely engage critical time-sensitive targets in contested environments.
The first two phases of the program focus on the propulsion technologies required to deliver diverse payloads a variety of ranges.
Phase 1 of the program is a 12-month effort focused on early development and demonstration of booster solutions that provide variable thrust propulsion across robust operational parameters in large tactical missiles. The Phase 1 contracts were awarded to Aerojet Rocketdyne, Exquadrum, and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) in 2018.
Since the Phase 1 contract award, the three companies have made critical discoveries in advanced rocket motor technology for the OpFires upper stage, completing more than 30 motor trials from subscale through full size. These advances put the program on track for booster critical design review in late 2020.
Exquadrum completed a full-scale, full-duration test fire on Sept. 19, 2019, which marked the performer’s culminating event for Phase 1. SNC completed its Phase 1 testing in October, and Aerojet Rocketdyne completed six subscale tests in August.
The OpFires program reached a major program milestone in late 2019 with the completion of the booster preliminary design review of the two-stage tactical missile system.
Phase 2 of the OpFires program will mature designs and demonstrate performance with hot/static fire tests targeted for late 2020.
The OpFires Phase 3 will focus on weapon system integration and aims to develop an operational system design leveraging propulsion systems concepts developed under the first two phases of the program. Phase 3 will conclude with integrated end-to-end flight tests scheduled to begin in 2022.
In January 2020, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control was awarded a $32 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract by DARPA to support the OpFires Integrated Weapon System Phase 3 program.