The World-Wide Race to Hypersonic Military Strength

Published: December 11, 2019


Companies will see direct and indirect opportunities as the U.S. military increases spending on the Hypersonic missile.

The Department of Defense finds itself in what experts consider the arms race of the new era. Nations are investing their research and development, as well as the final production of the Hypersonic missile. This new class of missile provides extremely fast and in-flight maneuverable flight paths that are nearly impossible to defend. Once the Hypersonic missile is sighted on traditional radar defense systems, it’s already close to the kill chain.

Arms Race

Global powers have invested in their version of the Hypersonic missile China has stepped onto the world stage in recent years increasing its overall military spending as one of just a few, elite global leaders. Among its efforts to modernize its overall military, the nation has already paraded its DF-17 Hypersonic missile in October.

Russia has invested in R&D for its Hypersonic missile as well. Russia’s MiG-31K interceptor jet carried out a test of the Kinjal (Dagger) Hypersonic missile in Russia’s part of Arctic in mid-November, Reuters reported recently.

In 2018, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $480 million USAF contract to design a Hypersonic weapon prototype. U.S. Air Force successfully flight-tested a Hypersonic weapon from a B-52 Stratofortress bomber, Lockheed Martin announced in June 2019.

In 2019, U.S. Army awarded Lockheed Martin a contract at an estimated value of $347 million as part of a multi-year Hypersonic weapons development program focusing on long-range precision strike missiles.

The Danish Defence Intelligence Services noted in its 2019 annual risk assessment that “a great power play is shaping up” between Russia, the United States and China.

The Hypersonic Weapon

Experts say Hypersonic missiles’ capabilities will be extremely difficult to defend. These weapons travel at five times the speed of sound—or Mach 5. Ballistic missiles can travel similar speeds, but they have a relatively fixed flight path, similar to a quarterback throwing a long pass downfield to a wide receiver. However, Hypersonic missile capabilities allow for flying at lower altitudes, maneuverability, and, most notably, redirecting targets during flight.

“The advantage offered by a Hypersonic offense is that it overflies air defenses as we understand them today, and it underflies our missile defenses. It goes into the gap between air defense and missile defense,” Michael D. Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said recently.

The hypersonic weapon comes in two styles. Hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) are launched from a rocket and it glides to an intended target. Hypersonic cruise missiles are different. After acquiring their target, they are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines, or “scramjets.”

The advantage of the Hypersonic missiles comes via its speed, but also its ability to maneuver during flight.

“By the time we can see it on defensive radar systems, it’s nearly too late to close the kill chain,” Griffin said.

With its advantages, the Hypersonic missile has its disadvantages that can impact accuracy.

“If capable of adjusting their heading rapidly enough, these gliders could indeed defeat defenses by dodging interceptors. But executing rapid maneuvers without sacrificing the accuracy necessary for military effectiveness presents a significant technical challenge,” James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

Still, U.S. adversaries are becoming more proficient with their Hypersonic advances. Senior Defense officials have been researching Hypersonics for many years but now it has become a higher priority for them and for Congress. An unknown issue is how much will be enough to construct Hypersonic weapons since the military—led by the Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA), the Air Force and the Navy—are just now in the R&D phase, which is always more expensive than actual production. Some estimates have placed future costs at around $6.5 million per missile, compared to the approximate $3 million price tag of a Patriot missile.

Defense officials first identified Hypersonics as a notable budget and technology priority in FY 2018. In FY 2019, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended increasing President Trump’s Hypersonic budget request by almost $1 billion. In FY 2020, the Appropriations Committee is recommending to increase the Hypersonics funding $151 million to $379 million. The recommended increase for the Hypersonic Defense program is $238 million to a total of $395 million. Hypersonics prototyping is recommended to be funded at $576 million.

An example of the current work in progress is exemplified by the Hypersonic Conventional Air launched Strike Weapon contract, Opp ID #157417. Lockheed Martin is providing the Department of the Air Force, Air Force Materiel Command Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Armament Directorate, a Hypersonic, conventional air-launched, strike weapon. As part of the program, the weapon will launch from an existing fighter/bomber aircraft. The project also includes all respective operations/mission planning and sustainment efforts, including operational safety, suitability, and effectiveness. The contract has a total value of $1.4 billion with an estimated $480 million being earmarked for an air-launched rapid response weapon. The program has an expected delivery date of 2021. The Air Force has spent $233 million on this portion of the program to date.

Hypersonic related R&D opportunities are continuing to emerge and many pre-award opportunities exist. For example, Air Force officials are considering requirements for a Hypersonic Weapon, with rapid development in areas, such as Hypersonic aerodynamics, aero-thermal protection systems, and advanced Hypersonic guidance, navigation, and control. They currently are working on a Hypersonic Weapon Multiple Award Contract, Opp ID #172428. The project is in the Market Research phase. Officials are expected to release a Solicitation in early 2020, with an expected award date in September 2020.

Air Force officials also are pursuing a Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) development initiative focusing on C-C composites. One critical class of materials for Hypersonics is carbon-carbon composites (C-C), which retain their strength at extraordinarily high temperatures, in excess of 3,000°F, while being very lightweight. C-C applications of interest include missiles, nose tips, and rocket motor nozzles. The initiative’s name is Manufacturing of Carbon-Carbon Composites for Hypersonic Applications (MOC3HA), Opp ID #177221. Based on a Request for Information, the vendor will be responsible for the manufacturing of C-C composites for Hypersonic Applications. Deltek anticipates a Solicitation in April 2020.

Despite a looming award announcement, Deltek estimates an award in December 2019 and a test schedule that shows planned design reviews and test flights all occurring in 2022. DARPA’s Operational Fires Integrated Weapon System (OPFIRES), Opp ID #178655, is a Blanket Agency Announcement (BAA) for Phase 3, the integrated weapon system, of the Operational Fires (OpFires) program. Phase 1 and 2 deal with the design, development, testing, etc., of a weapon propulsion system. The program is in conjunction with the Army. Phase 3 focuses on weapons system integration and will conduct a series of tests designed to evaluate components, system compatibility, and to assess system concepts and their applicability to the ground weapons platform. The dollar value of this program is unknown at this time. 

Similar to OPFIRES, the Army, US Army Aviation & Missile Research, Development & Engineering Center (AMRDEC), System Simulation and Development Directorate (SSDD) Broad Agency Announcement to Advance Missile Aviation and Other Defense Technologies (BAA), OPP ID #119580, is pending an award announcement. Amongst its many requirements, Hypersonic is one of its focuses. The BAA is split between two technology groups, Missile & Aviation and Other Defense Technologies. It is in the second group that Hypersonic belongs along with Air, Space, Cruise Missile, Armor, Force Protection, and other technologies. The value of the BAA is anticipated to be $100 million.

Hypersonic elements are appearing as parts of larger programs too. The Department of the Air Force, Air Force Materiel Command, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC), Armament Directorate (AFLCMC/EB), Armament Systems Development Division (AFLCMC/XZW), Rapid Acquisition Cell (RAC) may have a continuing requirement of its Rapid Acquisition Cell Omnibus FY20 BAA, Opp ID #181219. As part of the BAA, the department is seeking weapon technologies including Hypersonics. The incumbent BAA Rapid Acquisition Cell Omnibus FY19 (RAC BAA), Opp ID #175522, is expected to close in December 2019 at which time the new BAA will be issued. A new BAA is expected to have a value that matches the current BAA’s $2 million ceiling, but the actual amount will vary based on the depth of research and work performed.

Seeing other military global spenders push forward with Hypersonic weaponry, U.S. military leaders, the President, and Congress have shown they are willing to spend to research and develop Hypersonics and the accompanying technologies. Many opportunities, both directly and indirectly connected with the Hypersonic missile, will appear on the Department of Defense and the military branches’ procurement forecasts well into the future, as the United States intends to remain the military leader of the world.

Base Operation Support Services

In FY 2019, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $8.2 billion in funding, which was a slight decrease from the 2019 budget estimate. In FY 2020, no additional funding was appropriated for the budget estimate, but the appropriations committee now recommends increasing funding for base operations by $8 billion.

Base Operation Support includes many services focused on operating bases, installations, camps, posts, and stations of the Military Departments. This includes the resources needed to sustain mission capability, ensure quality-of-life, and enhance workforce productivity and fund personnel and infrastructure support. Personnel support includes food and housing services for unaccompanied and deployed forces; religious services and programs; payroll support; personnel management; and morale; welfare; and recreation services to military members and their families.  Infrastructure support includes utility systems operations; installation equipment maintenance; engineering services including fire protection, crash rescue, custodial, refuse collection, snow removal, and lease of real property; security protection and law enforcement; and transportation motor pool operations.

Deltek is tracking a number of Base Operation Support solicitations, however, vendors may find even more opportunity by focusing on specific service area i.e., facilities management, or base maintenance and repair.

Through the Army’s Support Base Services 2019 (SBS) Opp ID #110398, the Installation Management Command (IMCOM) provides base support services to the Army, which includes supporting AC deployments/redeployments and RC mobilizations / deployments / redeployments /demobilizations. Installation Management Command (IMCOM) accomplishes this mission through United States Army Garrison (USAG) staffs that have historically been augmented during surge mobilizations/deployments of RC Soldiers. The incumbent contracts have a minimum guarantee of $10,000 and a total program ceiling of $983M (divided between seven contractors). SBS is expected to have the same ceiling value. The solicitation is expected to be released around the middle of December 2019.

While there are many solicitations focused on more specific areas of base operations, such as SBS, those covering base operations as a whole are usually larger in value and are typically held by one vendor. There could be a shift to a multiple-award contract and the shift would bring in additional vendors. However, the typically larger values will still leave more revenue for all involved.

The Air Force, Air Education and Training Command (AETC)’s USAF BASE OPERATIONS SERVICES MULTIPLE AWARD CONTRACT (BOS MAC) Opp ID #184328, will possibly have the need for continuing base operations support. The incumbent contract Opp ID #178238, requirements range from providing vehicles to various IT duties, to providing airfield operations. The value of BOS MAC contract has not yet been determined, but the incumbent contract has a ceiling of $287 million. An RFP release date is estimated for December 2020 with an award to follow a year later in December 2021.

Navy too has a sizable base operations support recompete in the works. AEC Base Operation Support Services For The US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (BOSS) Opp ID #135344, is offered out of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, NAVFAC Southeast. The solicitation will have a duration of eight years and an estimated ceiling of $250 million. Functions to be performed under the contract include; housing, family housing maintenance, bachelor housing, facility support, sustainment, restoration, modernization, facilities services, janitorial, pest control, refuse collection, grounds maintenance, and, base support vehicles and equipment. The solicitation is anticipated in early 2020 and an award is anticipated in late 2021.

5G Wireless Technologies

The Defense Department and the Defense Information System Agency’s (DISA) Emerging Technologies Directorate is digging into technologies, such as fifth-generation (5G) wireless communications networks, and Congress is offering its support. The Senate’s version of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act includes robust support for science and technology (S&T) efforts.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s FY 2020 Defense funding bill invests heavily in 5G technologies. DOD considers the technology the highest priority as it will not only provide expanded communications but also a platform for new technologies considered key to the Department’s long-term mission, like Hypersonic weapons and defenses. This is a newly funded program in 2020 with a recommendation of $436 million for the fiscal year.

GovWin IQ is already tracking 5G-related opportunities set to be released and awarded throughout the end of the year – into early 2020. Cornerstone Initiative Request For 5G Communication Envelope Tracking (ComET), Opp ID #180967 is an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) expected to be awarded by Army Futures Command in December 2019. The chosen vendor will satisfy the Command’s requirement for 5G Communication Envelope Tracking (ComET).

The Navy is also planning to invest in 5G wireless soon. It’s expected to solicit 11 Information Warfare Research Projects (IWRP), Opp ID ID #185393. One of them may be the 5G-related program known as Navy 5G Private Networks. The government may seek to prototype an approach to integrated 5G technologies in as realistic an operating environment as possible. The real-life environment would allow the Navy to assess the performance enhancement anGeod/or cost reduction potential of the 5G private network. It would also help them address the Navy smart depot port applications using a resilient private 5G network solution.