One of the Air Force’s major hypersonic weapons programs recently underwent a successful baseline design review, contractor Raytheon [RTN] said July 29.

The Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) program, a joint effort by Raytheon and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory, is one of several programs meant to demonstrate the feasibility of building a weapon that can be launched aboard a rocket, reach hypersonic speeds and then cruise unassisted to a target.

Hypersonic vehicles operate at extreme speeds and high altitudes. Raytheon is developing hypersonics for the U.S. Department of Defense. (Image: Raytheon)

The baseline design review will help inform Raytheon’s technical approach ahead of a critical design review, said the company in a Monday statement.

“We understand the urgency of the need and are working fast to deliver this advanced technology to our nation’s military,” said Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president in the statement. “The goal is to keep America ahead of emerging threats, and we are well on our way.”

DARPA awarded Raytheon a $63 million contract earlier this year to further develop TBG, (Defense Daily, March 6).

The agency’s director Steven Walker told reporters this past May that he hopes to see first flight of the TBG system by the end of 2019, though he noted that issues related to qualifying and integrating hardware may cause the schedule to slip into 2020 (Defense Daily, May 1).

A boost glide weapon uses a rocket to accelerate its payload and reach hypersonic speeds above Mach 5. Once in flight, the payload is expected to separate from the rocket and move unpowered to its target destination.

The TBG program development feeds directly into another Air Force hypersonic program, the Advanced Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), Air Force Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo told Defense Daily in a May 31 interview. Genatempo serves as the service’s program executive officer for weapons, as well as director of the armament directorate, part of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and Air Force Materiel Command, based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

“The ARRW program is designed to take that scientific demonstration [of TBG] and … taking it to an operational demonstration,” Genatempo said.

The ARRW program, led by Lockheed Martin [LMT], seeks to demonstrate the manufacturability of a boost-glide weapon system before going directly into production, while the TBG program continues to refine the cutting-edge technology, he noted. The program is “lifting the TBG program out of AFRL and DARPA,” he added.

The service awarded Lockheed Martin a contract worth over $480 million in August 2018 to design and build the ARRW weapon. A sensors-only version of the weapon successful flew in June on a B-52 Stratofortress bomber (Defense Daily, June 17).