The Air Force is currently involved in several hypersonic-related development programs with goals to test and field new platforms over the next decade, but the service needs to move more quickly, Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Charles Brown said May 7.
Speaking before the Senate Armed Service Committee (SASC) Thursday, Brown – who has been nominated to become the next Air Force chief of staff – said he observes China’s hypersonic advancements on a day-to-day basis with access to intel reports and open-source information, and the Defense Department must move more quickly to ensure its weapons are fielded in time. Brown also currently serves as the air component commander for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the executive director of the Pacific Air Combat Operations Staff.
“I think there are areas we can go faster,” he said in response to a line of questioning from Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), the ranking member of the SASC Strategic Forces subcommittee. “This is where we’ve got to put our foot forward on some of these [efforts]. We’re going to fail on some of these but we’re going to learn when we fail as we go forward.”
Brown noted that, if confirmed, he plans to engage entities outside the Air Force to advance efforts to build hypersonic capabilities, along with artificial intelligence, machine-learning and directed energy technologies. The service already works with members of industry and academia, he acknowledged – “I just think we need to do more of it, and to take advantage of all of the capability within our nation.”
The Air Force recently released a solicitation for its next hypersonic platform, a scramjet cruise missile (Defense Daily, April 29). In 2018, the service contracted Lockheed Martin [LMT] as the lead for the AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), which would be a boost-glide standoff weapon. In February, it canceled the concurrent Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) program to focus entirely on ARRW’s progress (Defense Daily, Feb. 10).
In 2019, Northrop Grumman [NOC] and Raytheon [RTN] announced a teaming agreement to work together to build hypersonic weapons under the $200 million Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) program for DARPA and the Air Force (Defense Daily, June 18, 2019). Later that summer, AFRL announced it had set a new record for hypersonic scramjet engine thrust in a test of a Northrop Grumman-built engine (Defense Daily, August 6, 2019).