DARPA Conducts First Ground-Launched Hypersonic Glide Weapon Test

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced the first flight test of a ground-launched hypersonic glide weapon.

The Pentagon’s premier research agency conducted the test at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, in May as part of the Operational Fires (OpFires) program.

The test achieved all its objectives, including “missile canister egress, stable flight capture, and use of US Army inventory artillery fire control systems to initiate the test mission.”

The agency revealed that this was also the first time a US Marine Corps (USMC) logistics truck was used as a medium-range missile launcher.

Operational Fires Program

The goal of the OpFires program is to develop a ground-launched, two-stage propulsive system for a “hypersonic boost glide weapon” capable of penetrating modern enemy air defenses and strike time-critical targets, the agency explained. 

The weapon should be launched from a range of US military trucks and compatible with “existing command and control, vehicles, logistics infrastructure, and operating environments,” for enhanced mobility and rapid deployment.

More Tests This Year

DARPA OpFires program manager Lt Col Joshua Stults said, “This is a promising step toward a transporter erector launcher on-demand capability for accurately firing medium-range missiles from highly agile, readily available logistics trucks that are already in both the US Army and USMC inventory.” 

“Our successful agile hardware development approach prioritizes full-scale flight testing that will inform further design maturation this year.”

Director of Tactical Missiles Advanced Programs at Lockheed Martin Brad Fiebig added, “This OpFires launch event is a critical step toward offering a missile that is ready to deliver hypersonic payloads in the Army’s mid-range spectrum.”

“In just 29 months, the DARPA-Lockheed Martin team has established controlled flight and demonstrated 70 percent of system capability.”

The projectile did not achieve hypersonic speed in its first launch; however that was not necessarily intended, CNN wrote, citing an official.

The outlet added that the primary goal was to launch the rocket from a ground vehicle. Further tests are scheduled later this year.

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