AUSA NEWS: Army Outfits First Hypersonic Missile Battery
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