Hypersonic weapon system OpFires completes preliminary review

WASHINGTON. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Operational Fires (OpFires) program has reached a program milestone, completing booster preliminary design review of a two-stage tactical missile system. OpFires aims to develop and demonstrate a ground-launched hypersonic weapon system to engage time-sensitive targets.

Photo courtesy of DARPA.

The first two phases of the program are intended to focus on the propulsion technologies required to deliver diverse payloads at a variety of ranges. Aerojet Rocketdyne, Exquadrum, and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) have made discoveries in advanced rocket motor technology for the OpFires upper stage since awards last fall.

Exquadrum completed a test fire Sept. 19, which marked the event for Phase 1. SNC aims to complete Phase 1 testing in October, and Aerojet Rocketdyne completed six sub-scale tests in August. Development activities will continue under Phase 2, which will culminate with multiple hot/static fires targeted for late 2020.

DARPA anticipates awards later this year for the third phase of the OpFires program, which aims to develop an operational system design leveraging propulsion systems concepts developed under the first two phases of the program. Phase 3 will conclude with integrated end-to-end flight tests to begin in 2022.