Lockheed’s “smart factory” to build hypersonics

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The US Air Force’s AGM-183A air-launched rapid-reaction weapon (ARRW) – essentially a long-range hypersonic missile – has yet to fly.

Recently, the missile’s rocket motor failed to ignite after being dropped by a B-52 during a test in July. But while he did not meet all of the flight goals, the Air Force saved face by saying it demonstrated several unheard of events.

Nonetheless, in the race to match Russian and Chinese hypersonic weapons, Lockheed Martin has announced the opening of a new “smart” factory in Alabama where the ARRW will be manufactured, as well as hypersonic systems for the military and navy. , reported Air Force Magazine.

The 65,000 square foot facility, which will be called Missile Assembly Building 4 (MAB 4), in Courtland, Ala., Will also be used to build the army’s long-range hypersonic weapon and conventional strike missile. Rapid (CPS) of the Navy.

These two systems have major components in common, including the hypersonic glide body vehicle itself.

An army that obtains hypersonic missiles can strike with shorter warning times, hit targets regardless of air defenses, and coordinate strikes over a much greater width and depth, analysts say.

The news came as Russia announced that it had for the first time successfully tested a potential hypersonic missile from a nuclear submarine.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the infamous Zircon missile was launched from the Severodvinsk submarine and hit a designated fictitious target in the Barents Sea, the Associated Press reported.

Zircon isn’t just causing a stir in the Pentagon because of its speed and lethality, but also because the Russians seem to be much more technologically advanced.

Previously, the US Air Force was a partner in the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon, or HCSW, project, but decided in February 2020 to pursue the ARRW exclusively.

The move “represents Lockheed Martin’s commitment to establishing northern Alabama as the base for the company’s hypersonic strike programs,” the company said. The MAB 4 is in fact the second installation on site for the construction of the CPS.

Staff Sgt. John Malloy and Staff Sgt. Jacob Puente, both from 912 Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, secures the AGM-183A rapid response air launcher weapon as it is loaded under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress at Edwards Air Force Base. (Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)

Air Force leaders at the AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber ​​conference in September said a root cause analysis for the ARRW’s failure in a July test was still In progress.

The missile was originally scheduled to fly before the end of 2020, but has so far only passed captive transport tests.

Putting the missile into production by the end of fiscal 2022, as the service has long predicted, will require a “swift resolution” of the July failure and two successful flight tests, according to the department’s official. USAF weapons program, Brigadier. General Heath A. Collins said.

If the root cause analysis is “prolonged” or results in an “overhaul … excessive,” it will affect the Air Force’s ability to perform the next window of testing, Collins said.

The Air Force requested $ 161 million in the 2022 fiscal budget for 12 missiles.

The new facility is one of four “smart factory” sites Lockheed Martin is opening this year.

In August, it opened one at its SkunkWorks © advanced development unit in Palmdale, Calif., For manufacturing secret prototypes and operational systems, presumably unmanned vehicles, and the new next-generation air domination system. the Air Force.

Skunk Works director Jeff A. Babione told reporters that Lockheed Martin will build the first examples of ARRWs in Palmdale and then move production to the company’s missile and fire control unit in Alabama.

The MAB 4 “integrates critical advancements in digital transformation, such as robotic thermal protection application capabilities; intelligent torque tools and mixed reality capabilities for training and virtual inspection, ”the company said.

Meanwhile, the Russian test marked the first launch of Zircon from a submarine. It has already been tested several times from a Navy frigate, most recently in July.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said zircon would be able to fly at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles). Putin stressed that his deployment would significantly increase Russian military capabilities.

Officials said Zircon testing is due to be completed later this year and will be ordered by the Russian Navy in 2022.

China has two deadly hypersonic missiles.

The first, Dong Feng-17 (DF-17), is a medium-range missile or MRBM system equipped with a heavy weight. It is capable of carrying conventional or nuclear weapons and has a reported speed of Mach 5-10.

With a range of 1,800 to 2,500 km and a launch weight of 15,000 kg, the DF-17 is a nightmare for all adversaries.

As previously reported in Asia Times, the DF-17 doesn’t even need a warhead. If launched at an aircraft carrier, the force of the weapon alone would tear an entire one, likely rendering it unserviceable.

The second is the DF-ZF heavyweight which can travel at speeds between Mach 5-10. He is apparently capable of performing “extreme maneuvers” to escape enemy defenses.

Sources: Air Force Magazine, Associated Press, Eurasian time, The hill


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