The Air Force has called it quits on one of its main hypersonic weapon research-and-development programs to better concentrate investment on a second prototype program in light of constrained budgets in fiscal year 2021.
Service Chief of Media Operations Ann Stefanek confirmed to reporters Feb. 10 that the service’s Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) prototype effort would conclude, and that funding would instead be focused on the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) program. Both R&D efforts were being led by Lockheed Martin [LMT].
“Due to budget priorities, the Air Force down-selected to one hypersonic weapon prototyping effort this year,” Stefanek said in a Monday statement. The service issued Lockheed Martin Space notices of termination for convenience for all task orders not related to completion of the CDR (critical design review), she added.
Stefanek noted to reporters in a gaggle at the Pentagon Monday afternoon that the HCSW program had been progressing well and met all developmental milestones, but the ARRW effort was building a more unique glide body design. With a flat budget pressed on the Defense Department for FY ’21, the service elected to concentrated on ARRW, which is on track for an early operational capability in fiscal year 2022, she said.
“We will continue to work collaboratively with our sister services to see how we can most effectively leverage each other’s capabilities, ensuring the most prudent use of taxpayer dollars,” she said in the statement.
Lockheed Martin was awarded a $928 million contract in April 2018 for the HCSW program, which Air Force Acquisition Chief Will Roper has described as a “lower-risk design” where the service was looking to leverage technology from its conventional strike program (Defense Daily, Feb. 8, 2019).
In a Monday evening statement to Defense Daily, a Lockheed Martin spokesperson said the company is “very disappointed that the President’s FY ’21 budget did not include continued funding for HCSW.”
“No layoffs are planned given the magnitude of work we have and if the Government should decide to restart, we will be ready,” the statement said.
The Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $988 million contract modification to continue work on ARRW in December 2019 (Defense Daily, Dec. 2, 2019), tagging onto a $480 million initial work award from August 2018. That award included funds for CDR, test and production support. In March 2019, the ARRW program passed its preliminary design review, and in June 2019 the service conducted the first captive carry flight test of a sensors-only version of ARRW aboard a B-52 bomber (Defense Daily, June 17, 2019).
Last September, Lockheed Martin announced plans to build a new facility dedicated to hypersonic work in Courtland, Alabama (Defense Daily, Sept. 16, 2019).