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Weapons

US Army eyes near-term fielding of combat capable hypersonic and directed energy weapons

05 June 2019
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The US Army wants to field its first hypersonic missile battery by 2023, as well as a battery of Strykers equipped with 50 kW high-energy lasers by 2022, in a bid to compete with China and Russia in the race to field new weapons.

Lieutenant General Neil Thurgood, the head of the army's Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, sat down with reporters on 4 June to discuss efforts to quickly spin out hypersonic and directed energy technologies to the force. The three-star general explained that the service will combine new capabilities along with existing ones to field one hypersonic battery in fiscal year 2023 (FY 2023) and four Strykers equipped with 50 kW lasers in FY 2022.

A Stryker with the 5 kW laser, mounted on the vehicle's rear. The US Army has decided to accelerate development of its MMHEL effort that seeks to integrate a 50 kW class laser on the vehicle. (DVIDS)A Stryker with the 5 kW laser, mounted on the vehicle's rear. The US Army has decided to accelerate development of its MMHEL effort that seeks to integrate a 50 kW class laser on the vehicle. (DVIDS)

As part of the Pentagon's Conventional Prompt Strike effort, the army is teaming up with the US Navy (USN) to develop a launcher for a hypersonic missile, while the US Air Force (USAF) develops their own. The three services will combine efforts and divide up work to transition the common hypersonic glide body out of the science and technology (S&T) world and into production. Under a memorandum of agreement, the USN is charged with the design piece of the equation, while the army focuses on the future production piece, Lt Gen Thurgood explained. He noted that the service is in the process of negotiating with a vendor to produce the hypersonic glide body, and a decision should be finalised in August.

Once these pieces of the equation are ready, along with a transporter erector launcher, Lt Gen Thurgood said the service will take four MH70 trailers, integrate two launchers on each, and tie the system together with the existing command-and-control system - the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS).

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