U.S. Army to Test-Fire Multiple Land-based Hypersonic Missiles This Year

The U.S. Army will test-fire multiple land-based hypersonic missiles later this year, according to Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.

McCarthy and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville appeared before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday in the first of multiple congressional hearings on the fiscal year 2021 budget request, saying long-range precision fires remain the force’s top priority.

The Army requested $1.7 billion in FY21 to further develop long-range precision fires (LRPF) program, with $800 million set aside for hypersonics. Along with extended range cannon artillery (ERCA) and precision-strike missiles (PrSM), the Army has already spent more than $1.3 billion on its LRPF portfolio.

Hypersonic strike weapons, capable of flying speeds in excess of Mach 5, are a key aspect of the LRPF modernization effort for the Army and the national security strategy to compete with and outpace potential threats.

The U.S. Army is developing its own land-based hypersonic missiles under the Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) program and is looking forward to the fielding of a prototype hypersonic weapon by Fiscal Year 2023. According to the Secretary of the Army, the latest budget request would help activate a hypersonic missile battery, on schedule, by 2023.

In August 2019, the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) has selected two prime contractors to build and integrate components of the LRHW hypersonic weapon prototype.

Dynetics Technical Solutions (DTS) received an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreement in the amount of $351.6 million to produce the first commercially manufactured set of prototype Common-Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) systems and Lockheed Martin received a second OTA agreement in the amount of $347.0 million as the LRHW prototype system integrator.

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 this year, leading to fielding in FY23.

Army Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) Concept
U.S. Army Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) Concept. Credit: U.S. 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.

In addition to the Army’s LRHW, the C-HGB will also be integrated with the Navy’s Intermediate Range Conventional Prompt Strike (IRCPS) weapon for which Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract in 2019. Both weapon systems will have the same All-Up-Round (AUR) missile and the C-HGB hypersonic glide body with only the launching platforms being different.

Initially, Dynetics will collaborate with Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) for the development and production of the glide body. As per the OTA agreement awarded, the company will produce 20 glide body assemblies for use by the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), with an option for additional quantities.

Additional future awards are expected in order to increase the production of the C-HGB and to establish an industrial base for hypersonics within the United States. Vendors selected for these subsequent awards would also work with Sandia National Laboratories to learn the production of the C-HGB.

Common-Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB)
Rendering of a Common-Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) in flight. Dynetics Photo.

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