BREAKING: 2022 Budget Request Supports Purchase of Hypersonic Cruise Missiles
Art: RaytheonThe Pentagon’s point man on hypersonics technology called the Biden administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2022 a “milestone” in the development of the game-changing weapon systems.
The proposal released on May 28 supports an “accelerated buying strategy” that will transition some of the various research-and-development programs to weapons procurement, Mike White, principal director for hypersonics in the office of the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said June 2.
“The budget request is a very important statement on the importance of hypersonics,” he said at a talk hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The ’22 budget budgets to buy those systems once they’re developed in numbers moving out so we are really accelerating the fielding of capability."
The Army, Navy, Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency all have hypersonic offensive weapon prototypes at various stages of development using a variety of methods to achieve highly maneuverable systems that travel at speeds of Mach 5 or higher. White’s office oversees offensive weapons, defensive capabilities to counter enemy hypersonic systems, and reusable aircraft.
There are two primary types of offensive hypersonic weapon systems. One is boost-glide which calls for using a rocket booster to propel a missile to high altitudes, releasing a vehicle that glides down at high speeds. The other is air-breathing cruise missiles.
The Air Force’s AGM-183A Advanced Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, being developed by Lockheed Martin is poised to be the first offensive system to move from development to procurement, White said.
There will be a number of test flights for ARRW — pronounced “arrow” — over the next year with fielding planned in 2022, White said.
“All we need is our industry partner Lockheed Martin to deliver the capability, and then we’ll buy it,” White said.
The Defense Department is prioritizing the development of air-launched cruise missiles. There is also funding for an Air Force hypersonic attack cruise missile and the Navy’s offensive anti-surface warfare increment 2.
“They allow us to bring in the fourth-gen fighters into the fight on day 1” to launch the weapons, he said, mentioning the F-16 and F-15EX aircraft. The Navy and Air Force are working closely together to coordinate integration of hypersonic missiles into other platforms such as bombers, he added.
“Cruise missiles … are smaller and are more affordable because of that smaller size, and they're more compatible with a wider range of platforms,” White said.
As for hypersonic glide, the Army is producing the common glide body and the Navy is responsible for future weapon design, White said.
“It's not a joint program. It's an integrated program of common interest,” he said.
There are also big plus-ups for wind tunnels and flight-testing infrastructure, including converting Global Hawk unmanned aircraft to monitor flight tests rather than strings of Navy ships, which White said was costly.
The accelerated development strategy for hypersonics was planned during the Trump administration, but has also had strong support from the Biden administration to continue the momentum, he said.
“It really is an important statement that we've made in the department and the new administration to move forward,” White said. “Now it's in the hands of Congress as we move forward to try to make sure that we can communicate the importance of this. They've been very supportive thus far,” he added.
“What we're developing is a family of weapon systems that are air-, land- and sea — surface and subsurface — launched to deliver a wide range of effects to the battlefield to allow the defeat of deep inland targets … and maritime targets and coastal targets and heavily defended targets and targets on the move,” he said.
“We're looking at multi-mission, multi-platform, multi-domain operations to deliver that capability,” he added.
White mentioned reports that adversaries such as China and Russia have moved ahead of the United States in hypersonic capabilities.
“As you understand that landscape, you really understand how real this is and how important it is — a national imperative in my mind — that we move forward and deliver to our warfighters this capability,” White said.