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DARPA conducts ‘successful' live-fire test with OpFires hypersonic weapon

DARPA and Lockheed Martin conduct the first flight test of the OpFires hypersonic weapon at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. (Lockheed Martin)

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently conducted the first flight test of its new, ‘highly mobile' Operational Fires (OpFires) hypersonic weapon at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

“The OpFires system achieved all test objectives, including first-ever use of a US Marine Corps (USMC) logistics truck as a medium-range missile launcher, missile canister egress, stable flight capture, and use of US Army inventory artillery fire-control systems to initiate the test mission,” DARPA wrote in a 13 July announcement.

More specifically, a USMC Logistic Vehicle System Replacement platform was used during this test, along with Northrop Grumman's first stage rocket motor. However, Aerojet Rocketdyne is building an advanced solid rocket motor booster for the second stage of the OpFires programme.

Lockheed Martin is tasked with developing the medium-range, two-stage hypersonic boost glide weapon system capable of delivering a variety of conventionally armed, tactical payloads, which will penetrate modern air-defence systems and rapidly engage critical, time-sensitive targets. The system relies on existing military trucks, such as the Palletized Load System family of vehicles, along with existing command-and-control architectures, logistics infrastructure, and operating environments.

A load-handling system available on USMC and army logistics vehicles is also part of the system to eliminate the need for a custom-made OpFires transporter erector launcher (TEL).

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