Pentagon Launches Hypersonic Test Bed Project for Weapons Development

The Department of Defense (DoD) has launched a multi-party project to ramp up its hypersonic weapons testing capacity.

The Multi-Service Advanced Capability Hypersonics Test Bed (MACH-TB) project will develop an affordable ground and flight test bed that leverages “commercially-available launch vehicles for hypersonic payloads,” contractor Dynetics explained.

The Test Resource Management Center and Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Crane Division project will also develop a modular experimental glide body to help create technologies for testing in hypersonic environments.

Test-Generated Data for Better Weapons Development

The effort aims to help the DoD shore up its hypersonic testing capacity to one flight per week, Defense News wrote, adding that the capacity has been constrained due to the limited availability of essential infrastructures such as wind tunnels and test vehicles. 

The data generated by the tests will help the developers evaluate, improve, and validate their weapons projects, enabling more robust and successful hypersonic weapons development.

“We have to test more often to collect data and provide that data to our stakeholders so they can make evaluations on their weapon systems, what they want to transition, what types of technology can help feed them and help provide additional capability,” the outlet wrote, quoting US Navy developmental test lead Scott Wilson.

US Air Force’s hypersonic air-launched Rapid Response Weapon Instrumented Measurement Vehicle 2 being loaded under the wing of a B-52 bomber. Image: Giancarlo Casem/ US Air Force

National Hypersonic Testing Capability

The test bed will also help build a national hypersonic testing capability, which can be leveraged by various hypersonic programs such as the Navy Conventional Prompt Strike and the Army Long Range Hypersonic Weapon.

“In order for us to build the science and technology pipeline needed to develop next generation, leap-ahead capabilities, we must have an affordable test bed that can accommodate continuous flight testing,” Secretary of Defense Test Resources Management Center director George Rumford said. 

“With this [Other Transaction Agreement], new and innovative technologies for hypersonics will be able to be matured in flight to validate performance, prior to being incorporated into existing weapon systems.”

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