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DARPA has chosen Boeing to develop and test a prototype of its future “Glide Breaker” hypersonic interceptor. This technology is designed to counter the emerging threats posed by hypersonic weapons, characterized by their high speed and maneuverability. The four-year agreement between Boeing and DARPA includes wind tunnel tests, simulations and flight tests to enhance national defense capabilities against these threats.
The defense arms race is advancing at a breakneck pace, particularly with the development of hypersonic weapons, devices capable of traveling at Mach 5 speeds and beyond. Faced with this growing threat, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has chosen Boeing to develop and test a new-generation hypersonic interceptor called the “Glide Breaker”. This technology represents a major advance in the fight against hypersonic weapons, which are known for their high speed and formidable maneuverability.
The Hypersonic Weapons Challenge:
Hypersonic weapons, particularly hypersonic gliding vehicles, represent one of the most formidable threats to national security. Capable of performing abrupt zigzag maneuvers while hovering without motorized propulsion in the earth’s atmosphere, at speeds in excess of Mach 5, these weapons are extremely difficult to intercept. Traditional interceptors are overwhelmed by their maneuverability and speed.
“Hypersonic vehicles are among the most dangerous and rapidly evolving threats facing national security,” said Gil Griffin, executive director of Boeing Phantom Works Advanced Weapons. This threat is driving defense players to develop advanced countermeasures to protect national interests.
Boeing’s agreement with DARPA:
Boeing has signed a four-year agreement with DARPA to develop the Glide Breaker, a next-generation hypersonic interceptor. The agreement includes several important components, including wind tunnel tests to evaluate the Glide Breaker design using computational fluid dynamics simulations and models. These tests will provide a better understanding of how the interceptor interacts with the air at extreme speeds and altitudes.
In addition, Boeing will conduct tests to assess how the Glide Breaker’s jet thrusters affect its overall aerodynamic performance. These thrusters are crucial in enabling the craft to maneuver and approach hypersonic weapons in flight to intercept them.
Given the nature of the threat posed by hypersonic weapons, Boeing will need to use simulations to model the interactions between the air and the interceptor at extreme speeds and altitudes. The stakes are high, as intercepting an extremely fast object in a dynamic environment requires cutting-edge technology.
The Agreement budget:
According to a Pentagon release dated September 8, the Glide Breaker development agreement between Boeing and DARPA is worth $70,554,525. Although a few concept images have been released by DARPA, little is known about the final design or overall capabilities of the Glide Breaker. DARPA’s official program page is succinct on technical details.
Towards operational Glide Breaker interceptors:
Boeing says this Phase 2 contract will form the basis for the future development of operational glide phase interceptors capable of countering the evolving threat of hypersonic weapons. This breakthrough represents a crucial step in national defense preparedness against these emerging threats.
In 2020, aerospace contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne received an initial Phase 1 contract worth nearly $20 million to develop “enabling technologies” for the Glide Breaker. Solicitations for Phase 2 contracts, for which Boeing has just won this agreement, opened in 2022.
Consequences and outlook:
The Glide Breaker development initiative by DARPA and Boeing is a necessary response to evolving defense threats. Hypersonic weapons represent a major challenge to existing defense systems, and the development of advanced interceptors is crucial to maintaining national security.
By developing glide-phase interceptors capable of dealing with these hypersonic weapons, DARPA and Boeing are helping to strengthen the defense capability of the United States and its allies. This technology could also have applications in protecting national interests, from military bases to command centers.
Boeing’s development of the Glide Breaker in partnership with DARPA is a crucial step forward in the fight against hypersonic weapons, one of the most formidable threats to national security. This project demonstrates the United States’ determination to invest in advanced technologies to protect its national interests. As hypersonic weapons continue to evolve, the Glide Breaker is set to play a vital role in the defense against these ever-changing threats.
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