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Walker: Hypersonic HAWC and TBG Neck-And-Neck to Fly by End of Year by John Tirpak of Air Force Magazine

Two hypersonic missile development projects jointly underway between the Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are in a “race” to see which will fly first, but DARPA’s director said he expects it will happen by the end of this year, or early next.

Steven Walker, at a press roundtable in Washington, said he’s “hopeful” the Tactical Boost Glide or Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept projects will fly by December, though he said making that timetable will be “sporty.”

“As you get into the building of these things [and] qualify flight hardware, things tend to slip,” Walker allowed. “So, I’m hopeful that we can fly both of those by the end of ’19 [but] it may slip into the early ’20 timeframe.”

He said, “It’s really a race between HAWC and TBG to see which one goes first. They’re actually both scheduled around the same time … I can’t really see right now which one’s going to win out.”

Both approaches are accelerated to hypersonic speed atop a booster stage, but the TBG is a maneuvering coast vehicle that gradually bleeds off its velocity, while the HAWC takes in air to mix with fuel for a powered trajectory. They are both “focused on tactical and theater-level operations,” Walker noted.

Taking two different approaches to a hypersonic weapon is sensible, Walker asserted. “It’s good to have what I consider intended redundancy, because it’s a harder technology. Materials and propulsion systems that last in 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures is not easy.” He added, “These are going to be important tests for DARPA and the Air Force.”

The Advanced Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, will be an outgrowth of the TBG, Walker noted, suggesting it’s considered the most likely to be in service first. Prototyping activities on the concept with the Air Force are designed “so that the service could accept these concepts if they were successful in flight.” Under ARRW, USAF would be “taking that TBG concept and flying it several more times through the prototyping level, building some number for the Air Force.” This was “a very important thing we were able to do last year in the budget.”

Walker noted that Pentagon research and engineering czar Mike Griffin “has been able to get a lot more money into the service budgets for hypersonics for ’20,” and “you will see in the next several years the US aggressively pursuing these technologies; and not just pursuing, … but really thinking about how to turn it into a capability.”

Both projects are entering the “assembly, integration, and test phase,” Walker noted, a period when it’s not uncommon to have to “requalify things … [You] put all that together and you test the whole system, you hope it all works and has been done correctly. We’re still very much in the early stages of AIT for both programs.” He also cautioned that scheduling range tests and ensuring they’re done “by the book” can complicate or cause delays to testing. “Once you get into test hardware, there are all sorts of things you have to face down every day and beat back,” he added.

Technologically, tough challenges include managing temperatures and materials to withstand them, Walker said.

DARPA is also working with the Army on a variant of TBG that would be lofted to altitude and speed by an all-new booster. The project, called “Op Fires,” is a 50-50 cost sharing program with the Army. The booster is being eyed “to give some controllability to where that front end can be put. Re-entry conditions for a glider are very important for how far it can go, and what the environment it sees is.” Three “small companies” are working on the booster, he said.

For the Air Force versions, Walker said the B-52 will be the test launch vehicle.

The Navy, meanwhile, is considering whether the HAWC approach could be a solution to its needs, though it hasn’t finished studying the issue and has made no decision, Walker reported.

“I do know the Navy is working on the larger OSD program, but that’s not really a DARPA thing,” he added.

Hypersonics is an urgent technology push, Walker insisted, because although the US has “led the way” in research previously, “some of our peer competitors have taken that technology and turned it into a capability faster than we have.” It’s “an area that I believe the US really needs to make progress in and be a leader in.”

Original article can be found here.

Other articles:

Space News: Air Force unmanned aircraft developer Mike Leahy tapped to replace Fred Kennedy at DARPA

Inside Defense: DARPA advancing 'Assault Breaker II' to test technologies underpinning multi-domain operations

Executive Gov: DARPA on Schedule for Hypersonic Vehicle Launches This Year

Investors Business Daily: These Hypersonic Weapons Are In A Race To Answer Russia, China

SeaPower Magazine: DARPA Director Praises Navy’s Aggressive Use of Autonomous Sea Hunter

National Defense Magazine: JUST IN: Two Different DARPA Hypersonic Vehicles 'On Track' to Fly in 2019

Defense Daily: DARPA Director: Two Hypersonic Programs Speeding To Flight Tests By End of 2019

TASS: The Pentagon announced the completion of projects in the "information space" of Ukraine

 

 

It’s Getting Harder to Track US Progress in Afghanistan by Katie Bo Williams of Defense One

Almost every metric “is now classified or nonexistent,” says the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction.

It’s getting harder and harder for the public to track the U.S.military’s progress in its 17-year war in Afghanistan, the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction warned Wednesday ahead of the release of his latest quarterly report.

“What we are finding is now almost every indicia, metric for success or failure is now classified or nonexistent. Over time it’s been classified or it’s no longer being collected,” John Sopko told reporters. “The classification in some areas is needless.”

Sopko did not detail what information previously made public would be blacked out in the new report, due out this month. The quarterly reports — which are mandated by Congress and are intended to be public documents — track waste, fraud and abuse in U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The reports have also become an important tracking tool for territorial and population control by the Taliban.

The inspector general reports have long suggested the creeping rise of classification. The number of Afghan security forces killed in action is kept classified at the request of the Afghan government. In the last year, the Defense Department classified basic performance evaluations for the U.S.-backed Afghan security forces, as well as the Afghan Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense — metrics that have been used in the past to gauge progress in America’s so-called “forever war.”

“I don’t think it makes sense,” Sopko said. “The Afghan people know which districts are controlled by the Taliban. The Taliban obviously know which districts they control. Our military knows it. Everybody in Afghanistan knows it. The only people who don’t know what’s going on is the people who are paying for all of this and that’s the American taxpayer.”

President Trump in January questioned why the reports are made public, arguing that they provided useful battlefield intelligence to the enemy. “What kind of stuff is this?” he said during a televised cabinet meeting. “The enemy reads those reports; they study every line of it…. I don’t want it to happen anymore, Mr. Secretary. You understand that.” Future investigations, he said, “should be private reports and be locked up.”

Sopko on Wednesday said that the rise in classification was an ongoing trend, not a result of the president’s apparent public order to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. “There’s been some changes” in the latest report, he said, but “I don’t see any direct link” to the January press conference.

“I don’t think there was any link specifically. There’s been no pushback, nothing as a result of that press conference, and I’ve talked to the other IGs about it too,” Sopko said.

Since 2008, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, has probed the over $100 billion in relief and reconstruction funds spent in Afghanistan since 2002, building the security forces and civil governance institutions, providing development assistance, and running counter-narcotics and anti-corruption efforts. The reports at times have been deeply critical. In November, SIGAR said that Afghan government control over the country was at its lowest point since 2015.

Asked whether the U.S. is meeting its strategic goals in Afghanistan, Sopko was blunt.

“Ultimately, I don’t think we’ve met all our strategic goals there. The two major goals were, we were going to kick the terrorists out and create a government that could keep the terrorists out. Obviously, we haven’t kicked the terrorists out if they’re still blowing things up and we’re negotiating with them,” Sopko said. “That strategic goal is now changed to get them to the peace negotiations. So maybe ultimately, we will achieve that strategic goal.

“I don’t know.”

Original article can be found here.

Other Articles:

The Hill: Watchdog: Info on US progress in Afghanistan needlessly classified

Voice of America: US Official: Afghan Peace Deal Could Trigger Internal Woes

Military Times: SIGAR: Drug lab bombing was a dead end, and most metrics for success or failure in Afghanistan are ‘classified or nonexistent'

Air Force Magazine: Watchdog: US Air Campaign Against Taliban Drug Infrastructure, Financing Had Little to No Impact

Inside Defense: SIGAR says overclassification of Afghanistan war, reconstruction continues

US News and World Report: Key Issue Could Cost Afghanistan Billions in Foreign Aid

Tolo News: It’s 'Getting Harder' To Track US Progress In Afghanistan

 

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