美国高超声速计划正在向武器化道路上迈进 | U.S. Hypersonic Programs Hit First Bumps On Path To Weaponization

rocket booster
The Lockheed Martin AGM-183A represents the most advanced—and risky—hypersonic missile configuration: an air-launched weapon with a high lift-to-drag ratio glide body.
Credit: TurboSquid

2017年5月3日,时任空军代理部长的莉萨·迪斯布罗(Lisa Disbrow)授权通过开发“空射快速反应武器”(ARRW),将美军带入了高超声速技术的武器化时代。

By the stroke of a pen on May 3, 2017, Lisa Disbrow, then-acting Air Force secretary, ushered the U.S. military into the weaponization age of hypersonic flight by authorizing development of the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW).


The keyword in that name is “weapon.”


In each of the previous seven decades, the Defense Department had tested hypersonic vehicles but only as X-planes and demonstrators. This time, it was different. After Russia and China had established a clear lead over the U.S. in a series of breakthrough flight tests staged between 2014 and 2016, the Air Force decided to start fielding a new set of maneuvering hypersonic weapons.


In 2020, the Pentagon’s portfolio of offensive hypersonic programs has metastasized with an annual budget averaging about $2 billion, which spans air-, land- and sea-launched missiles using two different forms of propulsion.


Not that everything has gone strictly according to plan.

20204月,空军取消了第二个空射高超声速导弹计划,即“高超声速常规打击武器”(HCSW)。同时,DARPA计划在2019年试飞的“战术助推滑翔”(TBG)演示飞行器到目前仍未投入飞行。 由于TBG和ARRW的技术通用,因此ARRW实现早期作战能力(EOC)的里程碑也至少推迟了一年,可能直到2022年9月才会达到EOC。这些延误都增加了ARRW计划的成本,但美国空军通过取消HCSW项目节省的资金则部分弥补了这些超支的成本。

In April, the Air Force canceled the second air-launched missile program, which was called the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW). Meanwhile, DARPA planned to fly the Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) demonstrator in 2019, but it still has not flown yet. TBG and ARRW share a common design, so the early operational capability (EOC) milestone for ARRW also is delayed by at least a year, to September 2022. The delays increased the costs for the ARRW program, which the Air Force partly offset by canceling HCSW.


The delays are also a result of a new strategy. The original plan focused on ushering operational prototypes through the flight-test phase as quickly as possible, allowing the services to declare an EOC with a handful of leftover spare missiles. A new strategy, adopted since 2019, accepts a lengthier schedule for the air-launched missile flight-test programs, such as ARRW, in exchange for design changes and supply chain decisions, thereby shortening the production cycle.

国防部现代化研究与发展部主任Mark Lewis表示:实际上他们希望两个项目(ARRW和TBG)都可以投入实际生产,目前研究策略的改变也源于这一点,他们也一直在思考DARPA的项目需要什么,以最大程度地提高投资回报率。”

“I would say that some of the changes you are seeing are coming from the fact that we said, ‘We want both of these programs to roll into actual production systems,” says Mark Lewis, the Defense Department’s director of research and development for modernization. “So we’ve been thinking through what things we need to do with these DARPA programs to maximize the return on investment.”


Specifically, DARPA’s TBG program is the risk-reduction program for two different versions of ARRW. The first ARRW design scheduled to become operational is the Lockheed Martin AGM-183A. But Raytheon is developing a different design to meet the ARRW requirement, which the company says will be more advanced.


Likewise, DARPA selected Lockheed and Raytheon versions of a scramjet-powered cruise missile. Both versions of the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) also were expected to enter flight testing in 2019 but fell behind schedule. Most recently, the Lockheed version of HAWC was destroyed during a captive-carry flight test that is now under investigation.


 “The question now across the board over all our hypersonic programs is, how do we maximize the utility of these [DARPA] programs so they give us the information we need?” Lewis asks. “Our goal is delivering hypersonics at scale, and that can change the nature of your program. If you’re doing an exploration program for exploration’s sake—and I’m not taking anything away from those programs at all—that’s somewhat different than if I’m doing a program that’s feeding data into a follow-on effort with specific goals and requirements.


 “So we are looking at our programs and saying, if the data from program X leads to the follow-on program Y, then how do we make sure that all of the data we get out of program X is of value to program Y? And conversely, if it isn’t, then we need to rethink the investment. That’s the mindset we are applying across the portfolio,” Lewis says.


For ARRW, the impact of the philosophical shift has been dramatic. In March 2019, a set of “changing program circumstances” increased costs by 39% to $1.16 billion, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in June 2020. The GAO did not elaborate, but the percentage increase implies an original budget of about $836.5 million.


The road to an EOC milestone by the end of fiscal 2022 now includes little margin for error. The Air Force originally called for Lockheed to achieve the EOC milestone in August 2021, or 36 months after the contract award. But the schedule delays have pushed the first of four planned flight tests of the Lockheed version of ARRW to October 2021, with the fourth sortie now scheduled for September, the last month of fiscal 2022.


Adding to the schedule pressure for ARRW is the sheer technological ambition of the program.


To be sure, each of the weapons in the Pentagon’s hypersonic weapons portfolio face challenges. The Common Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) seeks to build a common airframe with intermediate range that can be launched from a submarine under the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program and a mobile ground launcher under the Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) program. The Air Force’s planned operational follow-on to DARPA’s HAWC program will attempt to transition scramjet propulsion from experimental to operational status.


C-HGB和HAWC都是基于已进行成功飞行测试的项目建立的,如空军在2013年成功测试了使用超燃冲压发动机的X-51A验证机,最高速度达Ma 5.1,飞行时间210秒。而C-HGB是“陆军先进高超声速武器”(AHW)的派生产品,AHW本身是基于桑迪亚(Sandia)有翼再入飞行器发展而来。

The C-HGB and HAWC programs, however, are building on successful flight experiments. The Air Force successfully tested the scramjet-powered Boeing X-51A in 2013, flying for 210 sec. and achieving a top speed of Mach 5.1. The C-HGB is a derivative of the Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW), which itself was based on the Sandia Winged Energetic Reentry Vehicle Experiment.

桑迪亚飞行器在1979-1983年间成功完成了3次飞行,美国陆军于2006年恢复了该项目,并于2011年成功对AHW进行了测试,但由于助推器故障导致在2014年的测试失败。后来美国海军对AHW进行了改进,使之适用于在舰艇上发射,并于2017年测试成功。在2020年3月,从AHW发展而来的C-HGB的Block 0批次试验飞行器完成了一次成功的飞行,使陆军和海军可以继续开发Block 1版本的C-HGB飞行器。

The latter completed three successful flights from 1979-83. The Army revived the project in 2006, leading to a successful test of the AHW in 2011 and a failed test in 2014 due to a booster malfunction. The Navy adapted the AHW for ship launching and staged another successful test in 2017. Three years later, this past March, the Block 0 version of the C-HGB completed another successful flight, allowing the Army and Navy to proceed with developing a Block 1 All-Up Round.

相比之下,TBG和ARRW项目或其前身都没有成功的飞行测试记录,虽然这些空射飞行器与C-HGB同样都采用火箭助推滑翔的配置,但它们还是有一个关键的区别。C-HGB是基于双锥轴型对称设计,在飞行过程中会绕其轴旋转以散发热量。但 TBG和ARRW的设计是技术更先进的楔形滑翔体,结果就是C-HGB的升阻比约为2.4~2.6,而TBG和ARRW的升组比预计将达到3.0~3.3。

By contrast, TBG and ARRW have no experimental flight test record to build upon. Although these air-launched missiles share the rocket-boosted glider configuration of the C-HGB, there is a crucial difference. The C-HGB is based on a biconical, axisymmetric design, which rotates on its axis during flight to dissipate heat. The designs for TBG and ARRW are more advanced wedge-shape gliders. Whereas the C-HGB achieves a lift-to-drag ratio of about 2.4-2.6, TBG and ARRW are expected to fall into the 3.0-3.3 range.


The only recorded attempt to test a hypersonic glider with a lift-to-drag ratio as high as ARRW ended in failure. During two flights staged in 2010 and 2011, DARPA’s Hypersonic Test Vehicle (HTV)-2 successfully separated from the booster, but the onboard flight-termination system commanded both gliders to self-destruct after they lost control.

DARPA本来希望通过HTV-2展示出具有终级性能的全球范围内的高超声速武器,但相比之下,陆军的AHW项目的技术显得相对适中。根据美国桑迪亚国家实验室(Sandia National Laboratories)2014年的分析,AHW旨在展示最高速度为Ma 8、目标射程为5600~5000km,且具备跨度达1900~2700km的横向机动能力。而DARPA为HTV-2设定的目标速度比Ma 20更快,目标射程为16000km,横向机动跨度达5300km,且精度不超过3m。

With HTV-2, DARPA sought to demonstrate a global hypersonic weapon with ultimate performance. By comparison, the Army’s axisymmetric AHW seems modest. The AHW was designed to demonstrate a maximum speed of Mach 8 and a range to target of 3,500-5,000 mi., including a cross-range capability of 1,200-1,700 mi., according to a 2014 analysis by Sandia National Laboratories, the manufacturer of the glide vehicle. DARPA set a goal for the HTV-2 to fly faster than Mach 20, with a range to target of 10,000 mi., a cross-range capability of 3,300 mi. and an accuracy of 10 ft. or less.


At those speeds, the HTV-2 would have glided for an extended period inside a ball of flame up to 3,500F, requiring the use of expensive materials. DARPA never released the dimensions for the HTV-2, but internal dimensions of the launcher’s payload assembly limit its length to no greater than 50-60 in.

HTV-2第二次测试失败的三年后,DARPA启动了TBG项目,再次演示具有高升阻比特征的滑翔飞行器,但具备更紧凑的外型和有所下降的总体性能需求。到2016年,DARPA选择洛克希德公司在2019年前制造首批TBG飞行器。与此同时,包括其时任副局长Steven Walker在内的DARPA官方都劝告空军在等到TBG首次成功飞行后,再着手开发高超声速空射导弹。

Three years after the second failed HTV-2 test, DARPA launched the TBG program to demonstrate a glide vehicle with a similarly high lift-to-drag ratio but sought a more compact form factor for the all-up round with less overall performance. By 2016, DARPA selected Lockheed to demonstrate the first TBG flight by 2019. At the same time, DARPA officials, including then-Deputy Director Steven Walker, counseled the Air Force to wait until after the first flight of TBG before launching the development of an operational air-launched missile.


The Air Force decided seven months after Walker’s warning that it could not wait any longer, leading to Disbrow’s go-ahead decision for the ARRW in May 2017.

五角大楼研究与工程部高超声速计划主管Mike White表示,“我认为人们低估了空军这一决定的重要性。对于高超声速领域,我们一直都处于‘研发’阶段,而在空军在2017年的决定体现出他们是第一个提出‘我们需要高超声速武器’的部队。”

“I think people underestimate the importance of this decision of the Air Force,” says Mike White, director of hypersonic programs for the Pentagon’s research and engineering branch.“For the hypersonic community, we’ve always been kind of stuck in the [research and development] realm,” White says. “The Air Force, in 2017, [was] the first service that said, ‘Hey, we want hypersonic weapons.’”

相比之下,美国陆军和海军花了更长的时间决定将AHW武器化,但其技术发展的幅度不大。 2017年11月,海军成功完成了对AHW的飞行测试,当时AHW进行了改进,称为FE-1,可以从潜艇或军舰上发射。后来陆军和海军达成协议,将AHW转换为C-HGB项目供双方的LRHWCPS系统使用,C-HGB将采用直径约88cm的两级助推器。而空军的HCSW也曾计划采用C-HGB,但只配置了直径81cm的单级助推器。

The Army and Navy took longer to decide to weaponize AHW but not by much. In November 2017, the Navy completed a successful flight test of an AHW modified to be launched from a submarine or ship in Flight Experiment-1. The Army and Navy agreed on a plan to convert AHW into the C-HGB for LRHW and CPS with a two-stage, 34.5-in. booster stack. The Air Force’s short-lived HCSW also planned to use the C-HGB but with a 32-in., single-stage booster.


“Once we flew the FE-1, the interest started to peak,” White says. “Then we got service interest in transitioning [experimental hypersonic technology into operational weapons].”


The green light to begin developing the ARRW and C-HGB front ends also launched the development of a family of new booster rockets. To field operational weapons, services could no longer rely on the hand-me-down booster rockets employed for the Army’s AHW and DARPA’s HTV-2, which used derivatives of a retired Polaris missile and a Peacekeeper missile, respectively. Less is known about the size and performance of the boosters, but White confirmed a 34.5-in.-dia., two-stage booster stack for the C-HGB. The diameter of the single-stage rocket for ARRW has not been released, but it is smaller.


 “When you live in the technology world, you can kind of pick and choose boosters that are off the shelf,” White says. “But when it comes to fielding a real weapon, you have to integrate with launch platforms. You would like to maximize performance within the weight and volume constraints of the launch platform.”The load-out volume for an aircraft has emerged as a key issue. The HCSW cancellation freed up funds to cover the fiscal overrun on ARRW and launch the development of an operational prototype of HAWC, but the decision also reflected a move by the Air Force away from larger hypersonic weapons.


 “HCSW weighs 12,000 lb. and the front end is about 10% of that,” White says. “So you have to figure out, OK, what can I fit on a B-52?”


For HCSW, the answer was “not enough.” But the smaller ARRW offers more flexibility for the Air Force’s launch platforms while providing the similar trajectory options for a rocket-boosted glide vehicle. The Air Force plans to install six AGM-183As externally on each B-1B bomber, and service officials hope to keep it small enough to launch from a fighter, such as a Boeing F-15EX. In February, Boeing provided a clue about the limits of the F-15E’s weapons load-out. A model of the F-15EX displayed at the Air Warfare Symposium included a surrogate hypersonic all-up round on the centerline weapon station, with a length of 270 in. and a mass of 7,300 lb.


Models, renderings and rare glimpses of captive-carry tests remain the only sightings of the Pentagon’s air-launched hypersonic weapons portfolio. The successful Flight Experiment-2 staged in March shows the Army’s LRHW is on track to enter service as scheduled in 2023, followed by the Navy’s CPS in 2025. The Air Force’s turn to enter the flight-test phase is next, with the delayed rocket-boosted TBG and scramjet-powered HAWC launches still planned for this year.

国防部现代化研究与发展部主任Mark Lewis在3月的新闻发布会上对记者表示,“我们非常有信心,虽然这些项目仍然在发展当中,但我们有信心这些武器能够按预期的时间表执行任务。“

 “We’re really very confident,” Lewis told reporters during a March news conference. I don’t want to misrepresent the fact there’s still development underway. But we have tremendous confidence in the ability of this technology to perform as expected.”

Credit: U.S. Air Force





2014年9-11月:DARPA向波音、洛克希德·马丁和雷神公司授予TBG 1A阶段合同。

2016年4-5月:DARPA淘汰了波音公司,将TBG 1B阶段合同授予洛克希德公司和雷神公司。










Tactical Boost Glide/Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon Timeline

The most advanced, air-launched hypersonic weapon in development currently is a joint effort between the DARPA’s Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) and the Air Force’s Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW).

March 2014: DARPA launches Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) program.

Sept.-Nov. 2014: DARPA awards TBG Phase 1a contracts to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

April-May 2016: DARPA eliminates Boeing from TBG competition, awards Phase 1b contracts to Lockheed and Raytheon.

May 9, 2016: DARPA selects Lockheed for the TBG Phase 2 contract, eliminating Raytheon.

May 3, 2017: U.S. Air Force approves requirement for TBG-derived Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW).

Aug. 13, 2018: Air Force selects Lockheed to develop AGM-183A ARRW.

March 2019: DARPA selects Raytheon to develop second TBG demonstrator.

March 2019: Air Force cancels Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon, diverts funding to cover new, 39% ARRW cost overrun.

June 2019: Air Force performs first captive-carry test of Lockheed TBG/ARRW all-up round.

2020: DARPA plans first TBG flight test in 2020.

Oct. 2021: Air Force expects first of four flight tests of AGM-183A ARRW.

Timeline Source: Aviation Week Research

这条消息是Steve Trimble在 Aviation Week & Space Technology 发表的文章。您可以点击此处查看更多关于高超音速的文章。