WASHINGTON ― A public-private partnership focused on accelerating technological breakthroughs for energetics has released its first requirements document, focused on hypersonic weapons and other munitions.
The partnership between the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division and the National Armaments Consortium, called Naval Energetic Systems and Technologies, or NEST, released 57 statements of need on Wednesday for prototype projects. Consortium officials say the total value of the solicitations likely exceeds $100 million, with more rounds planned every four months.
Energetics is a broad category of materials found in rocket and missile motors, ammunition, warheads and fuzing.
“We’re looking all the components, the pieces like fuzing, the warhead, all the parts that go into the systems of systems ― and that’s where the groundbreaking technology comes in,” said Charlie Zisette, the consortium’s executive director. “A lot of these [projects] are really focusing on performance requirements to give me more range, to give me more lethal effects, or to try and make [a missile or rocket] lighter or more durable.”
NEST, which has a six-year mandate, launched in March amid fears about the strained industrial base for energetics, a key part of munitions and other conventional weapons. It uses the flexible, nontraditional “other transaction authority” to task the National Armaments Consortium’s more than 900 members in industry and academia with solving its toughest challenges.
For example, one research topic pertains to propellants that contain CL-20, a 20-year-old chemical valued because the smoke it produces in rockets is hard to see. According to Zisette, the goal is to demonstrate a higher-density version of the propellant to produce greater ranges and speeds, while maintaining safety.
Last month, NEST hosted a “collaboration event” at National Harbor, Maryland, where Navy technicians and engineers were directly able to brief and discuss their program requirements.
“We spent the entire day basically speed dating between our industry and academic members and the government,” Zisette said.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.