AUSA NEWS: Army Outfits First Hypersonic Missile Battery

By Stew Magnuson
Ground equipment for the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon program is delivered to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Army photo

The Army recently established its first hypersonic missile battery at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, the officer in charge of developing the advanced technology for the service said Oct. 12.

Soldiers at the Army base received everything they needed Oct. 7 to conduct training on the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon and carry out test flights for the boost-glide system, which will be capable of reaching speeds of Mach 5 or higher and be highly maneuverable, said Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood, director of hypersonics, directed energy, space and rapid acquisition at the office of the assistant secretary of the Army.

That includes two trucks capable of carrying two missiles each and a battery operations center. The only item they are lacking to carry out their mission are the final configuration of the missiles themselves, the first of which he expected to be delivered at the beginning of fiscal year 2023, about a year from now, Thurgood said on the sidelines of the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.

The service is working on the program in partnership with the Navy, which is responsible for developing the missile stack that will send the glide vehicle to a high altitude. The glide vehicle, or “killing mechanism,” as the Army also calls the warhead, then separates and flies downwards at high speed — while able to maneuver — to strike a target.

“It’s wicked hard technology,” Thurgood told reporters in a briefing. The Army and Navy began working on the program in 2019 after reports emerged that Russia and China had already developed hypersonic weapons.

The battery receiving all the equipment it needs to conduct operations before the system is fully developed is an indication of the program’s accelerated timeline, Thurgood said.

“We will begin to train them on how to use the equipment, how to set up the battery operations center, how to establish a battle position — all those things that we do in the Army to put a piece of equipment into operational use,” he said.

Soldiers will also have an opportunity over the next year to execute real launches as it will take part in about three operational tests, he said. He declined to characterize the tests but said they will have very specific primary and secondary objectives.

In May, the Navy had a successful static test of the missile stack’s first stage and in August an equally successful test of the second stage, he said. Those successes indicate that the program is on track to field the weapon system by the end of fiscal year 2023, he added.

“In a traditional program, you would do engineering flight tests and then you would have soldiers do tests. We don’t have time for that,” he said. Doing these tests concurrently is being called “soldier-centric design,” he said.

Meanwhile, three days before the soldiers received their equipment, the lead integrator of the program, Lockheed Martin, cut the ribbon for a 65,000 square foot Hypersonic Missile Assembly Building in Courtland, Alabama, which is purpose built to manufacture hypersonic missiles, said company vice president Eric Scherff.

“We take this mission exceptionally serious. It’s a top priority for the Army and a top priority for Lockheed Martin,” Scherrf said.

The facility will employ digital engineering, robotics, smart-torque tools, automated inspection equipment all tied together in a digital thread, he said. It should be able to produce 24 hypersonic missiles per year, he added.


Topics: Emerging Technologies

Comments (1)

Re: Army Outfits First Hypersonic Missile Battery

I have reservations about the US DoD's Hypersonic program because I think it's too small a Hypersonic missile for too large a cost.

Yes, the US needs Hypersonic missiles. But take a look at the trailer and the Hypersonics---able to carry two Hypersonic missiles on one trailer---the Hypersonics look small even though they can reach 1,700+ miles. The peer nation and evolving threat nations have Hypersonics that are huge ICBMs with Glide Bodies that occupy the entire trailer and truck. That is what I think the DoD should have built...a larger missile with a larger Glide Body because from this photo, the Glide Body seems very small for Mach 5+. Peer nation ICBM Glide Bodies can range much farther on a larger missile with a Glide Body zooming at speeds of Mach 10-20 for way more destructive firepower. This US Hypersonic looks more like a large SAM and the lower speed and size than peer nations makes me wonder how much damage these Hypersonics can do for their size on a single target, meaning more US Hypersonics need to be fired to achieve the same effect as a much larger peer nation one.

I've posted before that the US DoD should have taken the Israeli "Arrow" SAMs and converted them into Hypersonic missiles because the "Arrow" SAM family already flies at Mach 9 with the Arrow 3 and 4 able to even reach much faster speeds and longer ranges. The US DoD should have increased the size and diameter of Arrow SAM 3 and 4 variants to fly 1,500+ miles at over Mach 10 since the US has a role in making Arrow SAMs.

Cenebar at 3:01 PM
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