WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy and its industry team conducted the first live-fire test of the rocket motor Thursday, which will propel the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike offensive hypersonic missile and the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon.
The Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs office tested the first-stage solid rocket motor, or SRM, in Promontory, Utah. Northrop Grumman developed the motor and Lockheed Martin serves as the prime weapon systems integrator to provide boost capability to the two armed services’ respective hypersonic strike missile.
“The first stage SRM will be part of a new missile booster for the services, and will be combined with a Common Hypersonic Glide Body (CHGB) to create the common hypersonic missile. Each service will use the common hypersonic missile, while developing individual weapon systems and launchers tailored for launch from sea or land,” a Navy news release said. “This successful SRM test represents a critical milestone leading up to the next Navy and Army joint flight test, which will take place in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2022, and ultimately the fielding of the CPS and LRHW weapon systems.”
The common glide body was successfully tested in March 2020, and the Army and Navy are now working with government-run national laboratories and industry on development and production. The Navy led the glide body design effort, and the Army is leading the production effort.
The director of Strategic Systems Programs, Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, said last year at the Naval Submarine League annual conference that a key challenge ahead for the Navy, Army and industry would be to “take all the successes we’ve had in the research and development of flight testing. And how do we start to productionize that? And how do we transition that into a military capability that we can give to the Army — because we’re kind of doing this collaboratively with the Army — for what they want to do for their first all-up round capability in about the 2023 time frame? And then how do we continue to push that forward so that we get to a Navy capability on [guided-missile submarines] in the 2025 time frame?”
The Navy has since changed its plans for the Conventional Prompt Strike hypersonic missile: Rather than fielding it on a guided-missile submarine first, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said last month the Navy will instead prioritize putting the large missiles on its Zumwalt-class destroyers.
The common hypersonic weapon will fit into an Army ground launcher or a Navy launcher installed on a submarine or surface ship.
In a separate news release Thursday, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman announced that, during the first-stage solid rocket motor test, “the motor fired for the full trial duration and met performance parameters and objectives within anticipated ranges.”
“We’re pleased to celebrate this important event with the U.S. Navy, Army and Northrup Grumman. This outcome today is due to our shared effort and determination to see this test on the Conventional Prompt Strike program succeed,” Steve Layne, program director of conventional strike programs at Lockheed, said in the release. “This live fire event is a major milestone on the path to providing hypersonic strike capability to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army warfighters.”
“Northrop Grumman is proud to leverage our expertise in flight-proven solid rocket propulsion to support the nation’s efforts to develop an advanced end-to-end missile system capable of deterring emerging and future threats,” added Charlie Precourt, vice president of propulsion systems for Northrop.
Hypersonic weapons can fly at greater than five times the speed of sound and would put most targets around the globe at risk within minutes. The Navy has talked about hypersonic weapons being a top priority as the service modernizes its fleet for a high-end threat like China.
Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.