Home Americas US Navy, Army complete new test for their hypersonic programs

US Navy, Army complete new test for their hypersonic programs

US Army Navy hypersonic weapon program test flights
Illustration: Sandia National Laboratories photo of the first high operational tempo for hypersonics flight campaign from October 2021

The US Navy Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) and the Army Hypersonic Project Office (AHPO) have carried out the second test in support of their Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) and Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) programs.

Dubbed the high operational tempo for hypersonics flight, the test took place on October 26 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and was executed by Sandia National Laboratories (SNL).

SNL launched a precision sounding rocket containing hypersonic experiments from partners, including CPS, MDA, AHPO, the Joint Hypersonic Transition Office, SNL, Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics Laboratory, MITRE, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and several defense contractors.

A second sounding rocket will be launched this week to complete the campaign. These rockets contained experimental payloads that provided data on the performance of materials and systems in a realistic hypersonic environment.

During weapon system development, precision sounding rocket launches fill a critical gap between ground testing and full system flight testing. These launches allow for frequent and regular flight testing opportunities to support rapid maturation of offensive and defensive hypersonic technologies.

The October 26 test will be used to inform the development of the Navy’s CPS and the Army’s LRHW offensive hypersonic strike capability. According to the Pentagon, the CPS and AHPO programs are on track to support the first fielding of a hypersonic capability to the Army in FY 2023. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) took part in the campaign to gather data for its work developing systems that will defend against hypersonic weapons.

The CPS Program, the lead for the common hypersonic missile design and development, has implemented a weapon system development plan that includes a series of recurring Technology Insertion points that will ensure the United States offensive hypersonic capability continues to evolve and enhance beyond the initial capabilities fielded to the first Army Battery.

The Technology Insertion process will allow for the routine incorporation of new capabilities and system improvements, as they become available. The frequency and affordability of the sounding rocket launches allows for the Navy and Army Programs to mature these technologies prior to finalizing the weapon system design. For example, the October 2021 inaugural High Operational Tempo for Hypersonics flight campaign demonstrated a capability that was deemed sufficiently mature to pursue its incorporation in the next Technology Insertion.

This test is a vital step in the development of a Navy-designed common hypersonic missile, consisting of a Common Hypersonic Glide Body (CHGB) and booster, which will be fielded by both the Navy and Army with individual weapon systems and launchers tailored for launch from sea or land.

The Army and Navy routinely share data with MDA that supports its work on hypersonic defenses.