The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Lockheed Martin a $31.9 million (€28.9 million) contract for the Operational Fires (OpFires) Phase 3 Weapon System Integration programme.

OpFires seeks to develop and demonstrate an innovative ground-launched system to enable a hypersonic boost glide missile system to penetrate modern enemy air defences and rapidly engage time-sensitive targets. Lockheed Martin, DARPA and the US Army aim to develop and demonstrate an innovative, mobile, integrated weapon system that leverages DARPA-funded propulsion solutions and hypersonic boost glide technology. The award for Phase 3 of the OpFires programme will take the design from initial requirements development through the Critical Design Review (CDR) in late 2021. Integrated flight testing is scheduled to begin in 2022, with component and subsystem tests expected in 2021.

"The OpFires missile is critical to providing the US Army with a highly manoeuvrable and rapid response solution capable of operating from unpredictable land-launch positions to suppress hostile threats," stated Hady Mourad, Director of Tactical and Strike Missiles Advanced Programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

Hypersonic weapons will provide a survivable and affordable capability, overcoming distance in contested environments using high speed, altitude and manoeuvrability. They amplify many of the enduring attributes of airpower – speed, range, flexibility and precision.

Lockheed Martin has played a significant role in the research, development and demonstration of hypersonic technologies for over 30 years, making significant investments in key technology and capability development – including hypersonic strike capabilities and defence systems against emerging hypersonic threats.

An artist’s concept of the OpFires system as likely to be deployed. (Image: DARPA)

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