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July 14, 2022

DARPA’s OpFires programme completes first flight test

The OpFires programme aims to develop a ground-based system that can launch hypersonic boost glide weapons.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the US has announced that the Operational Fires (OpFires) programme has completed the first flight test.

The OpFires programme seeks to develop a ground-based system that can launch hypersonic boost glide weapons capable of hitting critical time sensitive targets by penetrating enemy air defences.

The test was conducted at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and used a US Marine Corps (USMC) logistics truck as a medium-range missile launcher, and US Army inventory artillery fire control systems.

According to a statement, the first flight test achieved all its objectives, demonstrating the maturation of key enabling components. This included the first stage rocket motor, missile canister, and missile round pallet (MRP).

The MRP is specially designed to operate with the USMC or US Army logistics vehicle’s load handling system, instead of a customised OpFires transporter erector launcher (TEL).

DARPA OpFires programme manager lieutenant colonel Joshua Stults said: “This is a promising step toward a TEL on-demand capability for accurately firing medium-range missiles from highly agile, readily available logistics trucks that are already in both the US Army and US Marine Corps inventory.

“Our successful agile hardware development approach prioritises full-scale flight testing that will inform further design maturation this year.”

The test was conducted by Lockheed Martin, who also built the system.

OpFires initially seeks to demonstrate a ground-launched two-stage propulsive system capable of employing hypersonic payloads from military trucks. The programme aims to complete an integrated system critical design review this year.

In May, DARPA announced a programme to develop GPS-independent clocks.

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