U.S. Army Plans Multiple LRHW Tests Ahead Of Late 2023 Fielding Goal

Credit: U.S. Army

The U.S. Army is planning multiple, critical live-fire tests of its Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRWH)—assessing the common hypersonic glide body, two-stage rocket motor and ground systems—as it moves toward a fielding date of late 2023.

The service is holding to its planned fielding date, already training with the ground support equipment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. This includes soldiers moving the equipment onto C-17s and exercising its use, says Lt. Gen. Robert Rasch, the Army’s director of hypersonics, directed energy, space and rapid acquisition. 

The Army and U.S. Navy are progressing through a test phase of the ground service’s LRHW and the sea service’s Intermediate Range Conventional Prompt Strike, which share the two-stage booster, common hypersonic glide body and canister. The system has experienced a series of test setbacks, including a June 2022 test failure of the full-up system, known as Joint Flight Campaign 1. Though the test was not successful, for still undisclosed reasons, it still provided a “tremendous amount of learning,” Rasch says. That, coupled with the first successful test of the Navy-produced two-stage rocket motor in August, gives the two services the chance to add in piece by piece the overall system. 

Rasch says the two upcoming tests, JFC2 and JFC3, could also experience anomalies, which will be assessed as the Army wants to manage its risk going forward. 

“I would say the risk, obviously, it’s just the fact that we’re going fast,” he said during a panel hosted by Defense News at the annual Association of the United States Army conference. “I mean, we are doing a fair amount of concurrency on this effort, so we’re assuming what I would call the appropriate amount of risk, but probably more so than we would normally assume in a traditional program of record.” 

While hypersonic weapons have emerged as a need across all services, there have been questions about the industrial base’s capacity to produce and the Pentagon’s ability to test. The Army’s plan is to field three full batteries of the LRHW missiles. Rasch says the Army’s goal—along with the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike and the U.S. Air Force’s Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon, plus other smaller-scale hypersonic systems—will provide a large market for industry.

Brian Everstine

Brian Everstine is the Pentagon Editor for Aviation Week, based in Washington, D.C. Before joining Aviation Week in August 2021, he covered the Pentagon for Air Force Magazine. Brian began covering defense aviation in 2011 as a reporter for Military Times.