The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) in Maryland says that it set a world record last month when the division fired a conical projectile–“hypercone”–109 nautical miles at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
Last October, NSWCDD said that it had tested hypercone for the first time to collect relevant aerodynamic and aerothermal data for hypersonic flight conditions.
“We recently flew that [hypercone] prototype at White Sands Missile Range, fired it out of an electromagnetic gun out to 109 nautical miles–two minutes to get to that range,” Adam Jones, NSWCDD’s head of advanced hypersonic weapons and guided munitions, said during a hypersonics briefing at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference on Apr. 6. “With that, we were able to gather data, prove the ability to gather data in the hypersonics regimes, and be able to take that data and share it with our academia and industry partners to help improve our models, test out components/technology/subsystems as part of that effort.”
If true, the speed of hypercone would be 3,270 miles per hour–near but shy of the minimum Mach 5 speed–3,836 miles per hour-for hypersonics.
Jones said that air sciences data from hypercone would be applicable to both offensive and defensive hypersonics, but he declined to answer a question about whether the Navy is able to weaponize hypercone.
The Navy said last year that it wants to replace the unused BAE Systems advanced gun system (AGS) on each Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000) destroyer with up to 12 Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) hypersonic weapons in Large Missile Launch Cells (Defense Daily, June 8, 2021).
The DDG-1000 ships originally planned to use the 155mm Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRAP) fired from the AGS to support shore-based Marines at up to 80 nautical miles away. However, by 2016 the Navy cancelled the munition as it was too expensive per round when the ship class was reduced from 28 to three (Defense Daily, Nov. 9, 2016).
As recently as 2019, Navy officials said the service was still looking for options to use on the AGS, like the Mark 45 5-inch tube hypervelocity projectile, also built by BAE (Defense Daily, Jan. 22, 2019).
That same year, the Navy and BAE conducted a series of tests on the company’s 5-inch Vulcano precision-guided munition, firing it from an Mk 45 naval gun. When BAE and Vulcano partner Leonardo first announced their collaboration on the weapon, they underscored it as an option for the DDG-1000 AGS (Defense Daily, May 20, 2019).
In 2018, then-Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for warfare systems Vice Adm. William Merz told a Senate panel part of the problem with AGS was the previously planned LRAP was not only too expensive but also not reaching range requirements (Defense Daily, April 20, 2018).