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  • Time-Critical Strike in a Tube
    Posted by Graham Warwick 7:07 PM on Jul 13, 2010

    DARPA may still be working out what went wrong with the April 22 launch of the HTV-2 hypersonic glider by a Minotaur IV booster, but it's pushing ahead with plans for its little brother, ArcLight.

    ArcLight aims to demonstrate technology for a high-speed, long-range strike weapon consisting of a hypersonic boost/glide vehicle fired from the US Navy's standard Mk41 vertical launch system (VLS). The vehicle would carry a 100-200lb payload 2,000nm in 30min.

    Inviting proposals for Phase 1, DARPA says deploying ArcLight in some of the 8,500 VLS tubes across the Navy's cruisers, destroyers and submarines would give it the ability to strike time-critical targets at long range, and reduce the need for forward-based strike forces.

    ArcLight is focusing only on the hypersonic glider and wing materials and not looking at how such a weapon would be targeted and guided, but performers will have to develop a concept of operations for an operational vehicle, and conduct an analysis to demonstrate its capability and survivability in defended airspace.

    Phase 1 will cover conceptual design of the operational vehicle and preliminary design of a demonstrator, which would be launched by a surrogate booster - DARPA's ArcLight website identifies the Standard SM-3 Block II booster stack. Arcjet and aerothermal windtunnel testing would follow in Phase 2 and flight test in Phase 3. Multiple teams will launch demonstrators, the agency says.

    The requirement to fit atop a booster that is compatible with the VLS tube, and uses the existing Mk72 first stage from the Standard missile booster, puts a tight constraint of the size and shape of the AcrLight glider.

    Also in Phase 1, DARPA separately plans to award contracts to develop high-temperature materials that enable a hypersonic glider with high lift/drag ratio and control authority. That implies a sharp-edged vehicle, like HTV-2. The solicitation specifies materials "that can change shape or harden post launch and withstand the flight environment".

    Tags: ar99, DARPA, hypersonic

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