Monday, November 26, 2018

Hypersonic Boost Glide program will have test launches from 2020-2022

DARPA and the US Army Operational Fires (OpFires) program will develop and demonstrate a novel ground-launched hypersonic boost-glide weapons to penetrate modern enemy air defenses and rapidly and precisely engage critical time-sensitive targets. Aerojet Rocketdyne, Exquadrum, and Sierra Nevada Corporation have been given contracts.

OpFires seeks to develop innovative propulsion solutions that will enable a mobile, ground-launched tactical weapons delivery system capable of carrying a variety of payloads to a variety of ranges. Phase 1 of the program will be a 12-month effort focused on early development and demonstration of booster solutions that provide variable thrust propulsion across robust operational parameters in large tactical missiles.

“OpFires represents a critical capability development in support of the Army’s investments in long-range precision fires,” says DARPA’s OpFires program manager, Maj. Amber Walker (U.S. Army). “These awards are the first step in the process to deliver this capability in support of U.S. overmatch.”

The OpFires program will conduct a series of subsystem tests designed to evaluate component design and system compatibility for future tactical operating environments. Phase 2 will mature designs and demonstrate performance with hot/static fire tests targeted for late 2020. Phase 3, which will focus on weapon system integration, will culminate in integrated end-to-end flight tests in 2022.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Uh oh! B-2 Genesis video reveals a mock-up cockpit that may have been a secret stealth transport.


Northrop Grumman recently released an awesome series of videos that detail the genesis of the B-2 Spirit—the world's first stealth bomber—via testimony from those who brought it to life. The videos also include a bunch of historical images and video taken during the flying wing bomber's development. One of these images grabbed my eye as it looked like no Advanced Technology Bomber—the program that gave birth to the B-2—cockpit concept I have ever seen. I reached out to Northrop Grumman about the puzzling photo and what I got back confirmed my suspicions.
In the previous article, in which I questioned the photo's origins, I wrote:

"Second is this image of the mock-up of a cockpit. The panel layout is vaguely similar to the one that made it into the B-2 but the B-2 has a two-crew side-by-side cockpit. Was this for a technology demonstrator that predated the actual B-2 itself? Maybe the single station was going to be mirrored for the actual aircraft, but there are other oddities. For instance, the panel is smaller, lacking the two lower side-by-side cathode ray multi-function displays. It also has a 'canopy severance' handle. The B-2 doesn't have a canopy but it does have hatches that its ejection seats fire through. A central windscreen support structure also seems to indicate that this is a single seat cockpit concept, or at least a tandem one..."

As I subsequently came to find out, the image made it into the B-2 video presentation by mistake—which would be incredibly easy to make. The photo in question doesn't belong to the B-2 program, at least not directly. Instead, it came about from a previously undisclosed program from the 1990s called the Special Operations Low-Intensity Combat Mission Aircraft.


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