Lockheed Martin Adds Three Industry Partners to OpFires Team

Lockheed Martin today announced its initial round of key subcontractors selected to be part of team working on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Operational Fires (OpFires) program.

OpFires seeks to develop and demonstrate an innovative ground-launched system to enable a hypersonic boost glide missile system to penetrate modern enemy air defenses and rapidly engage time-sensitive targets.

Joining prime contractor Lockheed Martin on the OpFires Phase Three Weapon System Integration program are Northrop Grumman, Dynetics, and Electronic Concepts & Engineering, Inc (ECE).

Specifically, the new subcontractors on the program will support the technology development in the following ways:

• Northrop Grumman in Elkton, Md., will develop the stage one solid rocket motor;
• Dynetics in Huntsville, Ala., will deliver the cannister, all up round and fins, and support integration and test; and
• ECE, a small business based in Holland, Ohio, will provide the booster power pyro module.

“The engineering innovation required to deliver this maneuverable and rapid-response solution demands a best-of-industry team,” said Steven Botwinik, director of Tactical and Strike Missiles Advanced Programs. “OpFires and its unique throttleable booster make it a versatile platform to launch a variety of payloads over varied ranges and for this reason, OpFires is well-suited to address the Army’s Medium Range Strategic Fires needs.”

The company expects to complete its first live fire in 2021.

DARPA OpFires Program

DARPA’s OpFires program aims to develop and demonstrate a novel ground-launched missile system equipped with hypersonic tactical boost glide vehicle that can penetrate modern enemy air defenses and rapidly and precisely engage critical time-sensitive targets in contested environments.

Phase 1 of the program was 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 OpFires 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 3 of the OpFires program is focusing 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.

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