AEDC critical to fielding DARPA OpFires

  • Published
  • By Bradley Hicks

Critical testing for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program was recently completed in Arnold Engineering Development Complex test facilities.


This testing supported the DARPA Operational Fires, or OpFires, program, and was completed in October 2020 in the von Kármán Gas Dynamics Facility (VKF) at AEDC.


The goal of the OpFires program is to develop and demonstrate a novel ground-launched system enabling hypersonic boost glide weapons to penetrate modern enemy air defenses and rapidly and precisely engage critical time-sensitive targets.


The objective of the testing in VKF was to determine the stability and control characteristics for the OpFires weapon system across the hypersonic envelope. Aerodynamic data on multiple configurations of the test article were evaluated across a range of Mach and Reynolds Numbers at various incidence angles.


“The test team utilized an efficient and rigorous test methodology to collect the required data. All objectives were met,” said Lt. Col. John McShane, director of the AEDC Flight Systems Combined Test Force. “The data collected at AEDC is essential to the rapid development of hypersonic weapon systems and providing DOD leadership decision-quality information prior to flight test and fielding.”


The 2018 National Defense Strategy requires that the DOD provide combat-credible military forces to deter war and protect the security of the nation. Specifically, the Joint Force must be able to strike diverse targets inside adversary air and missile defense networks to destroy mobile power projection platforms and time-sensitive high-value targets.


“Fielding hypersonic weapons is an important element to meeting this requirement,” McShane said. “AEDC test facilities and personnel provide high-pedigree and large quantities of data on both tactical and strategic weapon systems performance early in the weapon’s development. This first look at ‘truth’ allows weapon system engineers to rapidly converge on a closed-solution design. AEDC has provided this knowledge to multiple hypersonic weapon system programs to enable their rapid development and fielding to meet the demands of the NDS.


“AEDC has forged strong partnerships with both industry and government program offices to rapidly develop the capabilities needed to maintain the U.S. military’s advantage.”