REDSTONE ARSENAL, AL -- Much like the first tank, the first helicopter, and the first radar undeniably changed warfare, the first hypersonic and laser weapons stand to do the same.
Starting next year, combat units will begin to see these battlefield firsts, which are being executed by the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO). Established to spearhead rapid prototyping efforts and deliver residual combat capabilities to Soldiers, the RCCTO is on pace to deliver strategic outcomes, and other emerging technologies, to ensure the Army and its Joint partners, can engage across all domains to deter and defeat near-peer threats.
Now, as part of the Association of the United States Army’s virtual annual meeting, “AUSA Now,” the RCCTO will be the focus of a Warrior’s Corner presentation on Thursday, Oct. 15, starting at 8:45 a.m. The virtual Warrior’s Corner will include opening remarks by LTG L. Neil Thurgood, Director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition, who oversees the RCCTO, as well as a video featuring RCCTO subject matter experts and a live question-and-answer session. The video is also available to view on-demand, starting Tuesday, Oct. 13.
“This is a unique time in the history of our country, and we need an organization with unique authorities that can transition revolutionary new technology into combat-capable prototypes and get them into the hands of our Soldiers,” Thurgood said. “In executing these firsts for the Army, we know this is a team effort and we continue to work with our Joint services and Army partners in support of the Army Modernization and National Defense strategies.”
Hypersonic weapons provide warfighters the ability to strike targets hundreds and even thousands of miles away, in a matter of minutes, to defeat time-sensitive targets with highly lethal effects. Directed energy systems can engage threats at the speed of light and provide a new defense to constantly evolving challenges, like Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), while significantly reducing the logistics burden associated with conventional kinetic weapon systems.
Earlier this year, hypersonics development marked a milestone when the Navy and Army jointly executed the launch of a common hypersonic glide body, which flew at hypersonic speed, in excess of Mach 5, and struck the designated target with precision accuracy. The flight experiment, conducted from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii on March 19, is part of an aggressive test regimen over the next several years as the RCCTO prepares to deliver the Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) prototype. The flight tests will be followed by the first hypersonic capability being delivered to Soldiers in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 to begin training and developing their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).
In FY22, the Army’s Directed Energy-Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (DE-MSHORAD), a 50 kilowatt (kW)-class High Energy Laser (HEL) weapon system, will be fielded to a Stryker platoon. This prototype HEL weapon is intended to protect units from adversary UAS, rotary-wing aircraft, and rockets, artillery and mortars (RAM).
In FY23, and in support of multi-domain operations, a ground-launched, Mid-Range Capability will be delivered to an operational battery, complementing other critical fires systems in the Army portfolio including the Precision Strike Missile and the LRHW.
The next major milestone will occur in FY24, with the fielding of the Army’s next HEL system, the Indirect Fire Protection Capability-HEL (IFPC-HEL), a 300 kW-class system designed to protect fixed and semi-fixed sites from harassing UAS, rotary and fixed-wing, and RAM threats.
Accelerating the delivery of these breakthrough strategic capabilities is intermixed with other critical technology efforts by the RCCTO, which was recently designated as the materiel and acquisition lead in support of the Joint Counter-small UAS Office (JCO) for the Department of Defense.
The RCCTO is also accelerating promising new technology for quick-turn prototypes in areas that include a dismounted electronic warfare mapping kit; hybrid electric technologies for combat vehicles; and a novel braking system that reduces the logistics burden, cost and weight of brakes on Army wheeled vehicles.
For more information on the AUSA Now event and Warrior’s Corner presentations, visit https://meetings.ausa.org/annual/.