Lockheed Martin to develop a ground-launched hypersonic weapon to attack relocatable time-sensitive targets

Jan. 13, 2020
DARPA pursuing the OpFires project to compensate for limitations of U.S. ground forces in the effective range of surface-to-surface precision fires.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are asking Lockheed Martin Corp. to find a way to attack enemy relocatable time-sensitive 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., announced a $31.9 million contract Friday to the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control segment in Grand Prairie, Texas, for the Operational Fires (OpFires) Integrated Weapon System phase 3 program.

The DARPA OpFires project seeks to enable capabilities for a mobile, ground-launched tactical weapon-delivery system able to carry a variety of payloads to a variety of ranges. This project is asking Lockheed Martin 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. In October 2018 DARPA awarded a $9.5 million contract to Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, Nev., to develop an OpFires hypersonic propulsion system.

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

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.

Lockheed Martin will focus on a hypersonic mobile, ground-launched system design, and flight test, including mobile ground launcher and all-up round. The company also will integrate the Sierra Nevada propulsion system into the final design. Flight demonstrations should be in 2022.

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

Related: Electro-optical sensors key to missile defense

Lockheed Martin engineers 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.

On this contract Lockheed Martin will do the work in Grand Prairie, Texas; Huntsville, Ala.; Toledo, Ohio; Elkton, W.Va.; Kirkland, Wash.; and Camden, Ark., and should be finished by January 2021.

For more information contact Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control online at www.lockheedmartin.com, or DARPA at www.darpa.mil.

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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