Monday, July 09, 2012

hypersonics - the new stealth

darpa | DARPA’s research and development in stealth technology during the 1970s and 1980s led to the world’s most advanced radar-evading aircraft, providing strategic national security advantage to the United States. Today, that strategic advantage is threatened as other nations’ abilities in stealth and counter-stealth improve. Restoring that battle space advantage requires advanced speed, reach and range. Hypersonic technologies have the potential to provide the dominance once afforded by stealth to support a range of varied future national security missions.

Extreme hypersonic flight at Mach 20 (i.e., 20 times the speed of sound)—which would enable DoD to get anywhere in the world in under an hour—is an area of research where significant scientific advancements have eluded researchers for decades. Thanks to programs by DARPA, the Army, and the Air Force in recent years, however, more information has been obtained about this challenging subject.

“DoD’s hypersonic technology efforts have made significant advancements in our technical understanding of several critical areas including aerodynamics; aerothermal effects; and guidance, navigation and control,” said Acting DARPA Director, Kaigham J. Gabriel. “but additional unknowns exist.”

Tackling remaining unknowns for DoD hypersonics efforts is the focus of the new DARPA Integrated Hypersonics (IH) program. “History is rife with examples of different designs for ‘flying vehicles’ and approaches to the traditional commercial flight we all take for granted today,” explained Gabriel. “For an entirely new type of flight—extreme hypersonic—diverse solutions, approaches and perspectives informed by the knowledge gained from DoD’s previous efforts are critical to achieving our goals.”

To encourage this diversity, DARPA will host a Proposers’ Day on August 14, 2012, to detail the technical areas for which proposals are sought through an upcoming competitive broad agency announcement.

“We do not yet have a complete hypersonic system solution,” said Gregory Hulcher, director of Strategic Warfare, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. “Programs like Integrated Hypersonics will leverage previous investments in this field and continue to reduce risk, inform development, and advance capabilities.”

The IH program expands hypersonic technology research to include five primary technical areas: thermal protection system and hot structures; aerodynamics; guidance, navigation, and control (GNC); range/instrumentation; and propulsion.