DARPA seeks to develop a ground-launched hypersonic weapon to attack time-sensitive relocatable targets

June 6, 2019
Industry asked to integrate hypersonic weapon, propulsion, and control to enable ground forces to attack mobile ballistic missiles before they launch.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are asking industry to find a way to attack enemy time-sensitive relocatable targets like mobile ballistic missiles with hypersonic ground-launched rocket-propelled smart munitions that can penetrate modern air defense systems.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., issued a solicitation Wednesday for the Operational Fires (OpFires) Integrated Weapon System project to develop a hypersonic mobile ground-launched tactical weapon able to deliver a variety of payloads to several different ranges.

The project is a three-phase effort that consists of weapon system preliminary design, critical design, and flight testing. Last October DARPA awarded a $9.5 million contract to Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, Nev., to develop an OpFires hypersonic propulsion system.

DARPA officials are pursuing the OpFires project to compensate for limitations of U.S. ground forces in the effective range of surface-to-surface precision fires. OpFires seeks to provide theater level commanders with the ability to strike time-sensitive targets while providing persistent standoff from enemy counter-fire.

The OpFires solicitation released this week focuses on a hypersonic mobile, ground-launched system design, and flight test, including mobile ground launcher and all-up round. The contractor selected also will integrate the Sierra Nevada propulsion system into the final design. Flight demonstrations should be in 2022.

Related: Barrier is high for developing enabling technologies for hypersonic weapons and missile defense

The OpFires prototype is not expected to meet all potential operational requirements, but will demonstrate critical system attributes, technologies, and functionality.

This project also will identify and develop critical enabling technologies and components such as weapon command and control; booster thermal management; component technologies; launcher simulations; missile guidance, navigation and control simulations; and system safety.

The U.S. military M870 tri-axle trailer and Marine Corps logistic vehicle system replacement are suitable mobile launch platforms, but other launch systems could be considered, DARPA officials say.

Companies interested should submit proposals to the DARPA BAA Website no later than 5 Aug. 2019 at https://baa.darpa.mil. Email questions or concerns no later than 3 July 2019 at [email protected].

More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/HR001119S0019/listing.html.

About the Author

John Keller | Editor-in-Chief

John Keller is the Editor-in-Chief, Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine--provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronics and optoelectronic technologies in military, space and commercial aviation applications. John has been a member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since 1989 and chief editor since 1995.

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