JUST IN: Defense Department Reviewing Industrial Base for Hypersonic Weapons

By Connie Lee
A hypersonic system undergoing tests.

Photo: NASA

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Pentagon is developing a strategy to ensure the defense industrial base has sufficient capacity to produce hypersonic weapons, according to a department official.

Hypersonic missiles can travel at speeds of Mach 5 or faster and are highly maneuverable, making them difficult for an enemy to defeat. The capability is the Defense Department's No. 1 research-and-development priority as it competes with Russia and China, which have their own hypersonics programs.

“We need to make sure that we're rightsizing industry to the level that we need it to be for these systems,” said Christine Michienzi, director of assessments, policy and industry outreach in the office of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.

The new strategy is being developed by the technology and manufacturing industrial base office, she said July 30 at the Hypersonic Capabilities Conference in West Lafayette, Indiana, hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association.

As part of this effort, the Defense Contracting Management Agency’s industrial analysis group has been tasked with examining the industrial base’s current ability to produce these weapons, she noted. Areas of focus include capacity, capability, industrial base bottlenecks, technical workforce, materials, manufacturing, R&D support, investment needs and prototype designs, according to her presentation. The agency will also consider additional efforts that must be undertaken to develop and transition the technology into production.

The strategy will ensure sufficient domestic manufacturing and industrial base capacity exists for production of hypersonic systems, according to her presentation. It is slated to be completed in November, Michienzi noted.

The department is taking a three-step approach, she said. Step one includes consolidating previous reports on the topic and evaluating the need for follow-on assessments.

Step two is to “promote and protect,” she said. This will involve promoting competency in hypersonics materials, capacity, workforce and infrastructure as well as determining “what kind of IP tech transfer we need, leveraging DoD and government tools, … capacity, infrastructure, things like that,” she added.

Step three is to monitor the industrial base, which will require coordination with stakeholders. It will need to be continuously examined over time to account for changes, Michienzi said.

“The industrial base changes daily,” she said. “Any industrial base assessment that you do is a snapshot in time and you need to keep reviewing that ... as things go by to make sure that you're staying the course.”

The Pentagon is also determining how many systems it wants to acquire, she noted.

“It makes it very difficult for us to do the assessment if we don't know how many [we] need,” she said. “It's kind of a chicken and egg thing that we're struggling with right now. It's getting a little more refined and defined.”

Topics: Industrial Base

Comments (2)

Re: JUST IN: Defense Department Reviewing Industrial Base for Hypersonic Weapons

STOP saying Hypersonics are "highly maneuverable"!!! One idiot wrote this, and now all of you keep copying this trope.

It is simply untrue. Hypersonics are FAST. Try conducting ANY maneuvers with a missile travelling mach 5 and see what you get? DISINTIGRATION!!

Hypersonics travel so fast that they negate the maneuverability of defensive weapons, but any craft, guided or piloted, travelling in excess of mach 5 in atmosphere will, of necessity, be travelling in a straight line.

Maneuver can take place before or after speed, though in most cases, hypersonic speed will be maintained up to impact.

Please, if you are going to write about hypersonics, talk to some experts. Please stop using this BS datapoint.

Ben Cates at 9:47 AM
Re: JUST IN: Defense Department Reviewing Industrial Base for Hypersonic Weapons

The idea is that they are "highly maneuverable" compared to, say, a ballistic missile re-entry vehicle.

Joe Jewell at 10:13 AM
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