AUSA 2021: US aims to ramp up hypersonic weapon industrial base, cut unit costs

by Daniel Wasserbly

A C-HGB launches from Pacific Missile Range Facility during a Defense Department flight experiment in March 2020. (US Navy/Oscar Sosa)

US contractors are working to productionise hypersonic-speed strike weapons, and rapidly shift them from costly hand-built prototypes into usable equipments that the Pentagon is willing to buy.

Lockheed Martin is a prime contractor for the Navy-Army All Up Round + Canister (AUR+C) for the army's Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) integration, and for the US Navy's Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) hypersonic project. LRHW and CPS are to use the same booster stack and Common-Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB), for which Dynetics is the prime contractor.

LRHW is the US Army's top priority under the Army Hypersonic Project Office, part of the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO).

Lieutenant General Neil Thurgood, the army's director for hypersonics, directed energy, space, and the RCCTO, declined to give a price per round estimate for the prototyping effort. “We've got to drive the cost down, the cost per kill has to come down,” he told reporters at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) annual conference in Washington, DC.


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Switchblade 300 fired from USV as part of US/UK sensor-to-shooter demo

by Richard Scott

An AeroVironment Switchblade 300 tactical precision-guided missile is fired from the UK's MADFOX USV during the NATO ‘REP(MUS) 21' exercise. (AeroVironment)

The US Navy (USN) and UK Royal Navy (RN) have successfully executed a maritime sensor-to-shooter (S2S) demonstration culminating in the firing of an AeroVironment Switchblade 300 tactical precision-guided missile from an experimental unmanned surface vessel (USV).

Part of a US/UK Interoperability to Interchangeability (I2I) initiative using unmanned/uncrewed systems, the S2S capability demonstration formed part of last month's NATO ‘REP(MUS) 21' exercise off Portugal. The Switchblade 300 weapon was targeted using information from an AeroVironment Puma 3 AE unmanned aerial system (UAS).

Exercise ‘REP(MUS) 21' – an abbreviation of Robotic Experimentation and Prototyping Augmented by Maritime Unmanned Systems – is an annual exercise jointly organised by the Portuguese Navy, the University of Porto, NATO's Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation, and the NATO Maritime Unmanned Systems Initiative. The event, hosted at the Portuguese Navy's Centre for Operational Experimentation held in Troia, gives NATO allies and partners an opportunity to field and evaluate new uncrewed and autonomous maritime technologies.


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Russia to extend service life of UR-100N ‘Stiletto' ICBM to 2023

by Samuel Cranny-Evans

The service life of Russia's UR-100N (SS-19 ‘Stiletto') intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is to be extended to 2023, NPO Mashinostroyenia general director Alexander Leonov told the RIA Novosti news agency on 18 October.

The last UR-100N missile was delivered to Soviet forces in 1985 with a guaranteed service life of 10 years, which Leonov said was repeatedly extended by checking the missile's fuel tanks, the condition of the liquid propellant, and the safety margins of the load-bearing structures.

The first silo-based UR-100N variant entered service in 1979 and was modified three times to become the UR-100NUTTH (SS-19 Mod 3), which carried six multiple independent re-entry vehicle (MIRV) warheads.

The MIRV warheads of 12 remaining UR-100NUTTH missiles are to be replaced by the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, the TASS news agency reported in 2018. Many of the remaining silo-based UR-100N series missiles have been replaced by the road-mobile Yars R-24 ICBM.

Meanwhile, the ground-launched P-800 Oniks anti-ship cruise missile that arms the Bastion-P coastal defence system has been modified to enable it to engage land targets, Leonov told RIA Novosti. “It can be used by submarines, surface ships, aircraft, and land-based coastal missile systems,” Leonov said.


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Arnold Defense unveils ‘Trident' 2.75-inch rocket air launcher concept

by Robin Hughes

The Arnold Defense ‘Trident' three-round launcher prototype concept demonstrator mounted on Moog Space and Defense Group's Lightweight Dual Rail Launcher. (Arnold Defense)

Arnold Defense has unveiled a three-round air launcher concept protoytpe for 2.75 inch/70 mm laser-guided rockets. Developed in partnership with Moog Space and Defense Group, the concept demonstrator – designated ‘Trident' – was unveiled at the AUSA 2021 exhibition in Washington, mounted on a Moog Lightweight Dual Rail Launcher.

Weighing approximately 14.5–16.3 kg (unloaded), between 193 and 203.2 cm in length, and 17.8 cm in diameter, the Trident launcher utilises a curved nosecone to increase streamlining and reduce drag. Utilising Moog's Trident Interface Unit, the launcher is designed to be integrated on to a standard missile rail interface across a variety of aerial platforms without necessitating changes to existing fire-control systems software.


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