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Weapons

Aerojet Rocketdyne awarded Glide Breaker propulsion R&D contract

11 February 2020
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The Glide Breaker programme began in 2018 to develop and demonstrate technologies to enable defence against manoeuvring hypersonic threats in the upper atmosphere. Source: DARPA

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne a contract to develop enabling propulsion technology for the Glide Breaker hypersonic defence interceptor programme.

The contract, awarded on 10 February and worth up to USD19.6 million, is for the research, development, test, and evaluation of propulsion technology for the base period of the Glide Breaker programme. Work is expected to be completed in February 2021.

Glide Breaker intends to advance the United States' means to counter hypersonic vehicles. According to a DARPA Broad Agency Announcement, released on 6 November 2018, Glide Breaker will develop an enabling technology that "is critical for enabling an advanced interceptor capable of engaging manoeuvring hypersonic threats in the upper atmosphere". However, key aspects of the Glide Breaker programme remain classified.

"Advancing hypersonic technology is a national security imperative," said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president. "Our team is proud to apply our decades of experience developing hypersonic and missile propulsion technologies to the Glide Breaker programme."

Aerojet Rocketdyne supplies both solid-fuelled and air-breathing propulsion systems for hypersonic flight. The company delivered both system types for the joint US Air Force-DARPA-NASA X-51A WaveRider programme, which completed the first practical hypersonic flight of a hydrocarbon-fuelled and -cooled scramjet-powered vehicle in May 2010, and achieved its longest duration powered hypersonic flight in May 2013.

More recently, the company completed a series of subscale propulsion-system test firings as part of DARPA's Operational Fires (OpFires) programme - a joint DARPA/US Army initiative to develop and demonstrate a novel ground-launched system, enabling hypersonic boost glide weapons to penetrate modern enemy air defences, and rapidly and precisely engage critical time-sensitive targets from a highly mobile launch platform.

DARPA awarded Northrop Grumman a USD13 million contract on 24 January for the base period of the Glide Breaker programme.

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