Archive for the ‘DARPA’ Category

PGS from the sea as envisioned by DARPA.  2000 miles with a 100-200 pound payload via some derivation of the SM-3.

Much of Congress is disturbed by the concept of land-based PGS.  This will be a much more likely and plausible candidate for funding and political support.


The loss of DARPA’s Hypersonic Technology Vehicle, which probably disintegrated around the nine minute mark into its 30 minute flight profile, while no doubt disappointing to DARPA, was far from a total failure.

What caused the failure?  Under investigation, however, in Aviation Week, the word ‘recession’ used in describing the change in the HTV-2 in a high temperature environment (and not regarding the economy), is mentioned several times.  1 to 2 inches of recession was described as the expectation by Dr. Paul Erbland, the DARPA program manager.  I’m sure that’s the leading, if yet unproven, candidate.

What did work?  The launch vehicle, the Minotaur IV Lite (looks a lot like a Peacekeeper, doesn’t it?  There’s a reason for that).  This includes include stage separations, payload fairing separation, and payload separation (that is, the HTV-2 coming off a bus).

What else worked?  The sensors all along the range which will allow the DARPA and Lockheed Martin team to unpack the event.

Mach 20 was achieved and greater speeds than that–Mach 25 or so–are likely.

Defense Tech makes a great point about the vehicle’s unique “angle of descent, which makes it easily distinguishable from an ICBM.” (Emphasis added)

What are the critical enablers for a prompt global strike capability?  Intel and this sort of vehicle.

The apparent failure of a DARPA hypersonic vehicle shouldn’t be a set back for a prompt global strike capability, should it?

Well actually, yes.  I’d expect a maneuvering vehicle to be a requirement for prompt global strike as there might be a need to depart from a ballistic trajectory to be able to (for example) turn around 180 degrees.

Why is this capability important?  Because your kill vehicle needs to be aligned with its target.  If Bin Laden is in a concrete reinforced cave (think Iron Man) with a west-facing opening and we launch a prompt global strike vehicle on a westerly azimuth from California, the kill vehicle would need to fly beyond its target and then maneuver around to come back and align itself with the cave’s opening.

Hitting the right mountain does little good it the target is on the opposite side.