Army Taps Two Firms to Deliver Hypersonic Weapon Prototypes

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DARPA wants new materials to make hypersonic missiles more stable and reliable. (DARPA graphic)

The U.S. Army just selected two defense firms in a deal worth $698 million to build and deliver prototypes of a major component in the hypersonic weapons the service plans to field in 2023.

The move follows a March decision by the Army senior leadership to accelerate delivery of a prototype ground-launched hypersonic weapon capable of being sent into combat.

As a result, the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office has awarded an “other transaction authority” agreement to Dynetics Technical Solutions for $351.6 million to produce the first commercially manufactured set of prototype Common-Hypersonic Glide Body systems. It also awarded a second agreement under the same authority to Lockheed Martin for $347 million to serve as the prototype system integrator, according to an Aug. 30 news release from Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.

“Other transaction authority” is a Defense Department category set aside for research, prototyping and production projects.

The Army Long Range Hypersonic Weapon is designed to create a new class of ultrafast, maneuverable, long-range missiles capable of flying at five times the speed of sound.

Related: Army Close to Picking Firm to Build Hypersonic Weapon, General Says

The Army's Rapid Capabilities office is responsible for delivering the prototype battery, consisting of four trucks with launchers, hypersonic missile rounds, and a command-and-control system for fielding scheduled for fiscal 2023.

The other transactional authority awards will support the design, integration and production work leading up to a series of flight tests beginning next year, according to the release.

"Delivering hypersonics to a unit of action will provide a critical combat capability for the Army in support of the National Defense Strategy," said Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition.

"With a collaborative effort by our partners in industry and the Department of Defense, we will advance this strategic weapon system and fulfill a critical mission for our nation," he added.

As part of a larger DoD effort, the Army is working with the Navy, which will build the booster piece for the hypersonic weapon. The Army is responsible for producing the Common Hypersonic Glide Body for all the services, as well as building the industrial base in the U.S. to produce the glide body capability.

Over a three-year period, Dynetics will produce 20 glide body assemblies for use by the Army, Navy and the Missile Defense Agency, with an option for additional quantities, according to a company news release.

As the prime contractor for the common glide body effort, Dynetics will lead a team that includes General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, the release states.

Separately, Lockheed Martin has selected Dynetics to be part of the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon systems integration contract to perform work that includes developing launchers with hydraulics, outriggers, power generation and distribution for the ground platform, the Dynetics release states.

The Aug. 29 contract awards mark an important step in transitioning the development of Army hypersonic capabilities out of government laboratories and into commercial production. Initially, Dynetics will work with Sandia National Laboratories on the effort, according to the Army release.

Additional awards are expected in the future to increase production of the glide body to establish the U.S. industrial base for hypersonics, the Army release states.

"Hypersonics is not a new technology -- it's a new application of technology, with a new sense of urgency," Bob Strider, deputy director of the Army Hypersonic Project Office, said in the Army release. "This prototyping effort will leverage the great work of the government science and technology community to take these systems to the next level and create an industrial base going forward."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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