▪ Leading experts devise approach for RADICAL new manufacturing enterprise
▪ Approach would dramatically reduce cost and production time
▪ Counters gains by china, russia in developing world’s fastest missiles
September 22, 2020. Bethesda, MD – The Applied Science & Technology Research Organization, or ASTRO America, has announced the completion of a study commissioned by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to accelerate key manufacturing capabilities for hypersonic weapons systems. Citing decades of research and billions of dollars spent by the U.S. Department of Defense without fielding a single hypersonic weapon system, ASTRO America has detailed radical new manufacturing solutions to overcome disaggregated supply chains and delays in vehicle testing.
The plan explains exactly how to co-locate under one roof, a hypersonics government customer and “best of the best” technology developers at every manufacturing tier— materials suppliers, factory equipment providers, propulsion developers, and lead system integrators. Instead of using a supply chain disaggregated across the U.S., a “Hypersonic Production Accelerator Facility” or HPAF ensures an entire contractor/subcontractor team is in synch to tailor-make a fabrication process for these key weapon systems.
“Development of hypersonic weapon systems has been very cyclical in driving up costs and development times,” said ASTRO America Chief Technology Officer, Michael “Mick” Maher. “Adopting this innovative approach would result in cost savings of 45 percent and 73 percent reduction in delivery times compared to previous prototype fabrication efforts while maintaining industrial competition in order to provide the right solutions. This impacts the entire development cycle, allowing for greater innovation and more robust solutions moving into production for the acquisition programs.”
Within the HPAF, production partners will work with only the most up-to-date manufacturing technology and processes within a closed-loop environment. The latest state-of-the-art technology will be leased and either refreshed or renewed every three years. The HPAF will have basic infrastructure for competing industrial teams to conduct classified production in their own compartmentalized secure facilities. This method would inherently safeguard national security and protect intellectual property while eradicating supply chain delays caused by disaggregated supply chains.
“The problem with hypersonic vehicle programs to-date has been delays at every step of a design-build- test-cycle,” said former DARPA program manager Mark Gustafson. “In contrast, the HPAF will serve as a venue for speeding up supply chain coordination and both accelerating and increasing the number of manufacturing iterations, so engineers can make continuous adjustments to designs on the fly.”
The HPAF plan leveraged the expertise of renowned manufacturing and hypersonic experts from around the country, including former government officials, leading university experts, and input from over 100 aerospace professionals who participated in an intensive workshop last Fall. ASTRO not only worked with leaders in hypersonic and manufacturing but also engaged a number of regional stakeholders across the United States to discern capacity and interest in supporting the HPAF.
“America always led the way in developing and utilizing new technology in aerospace manufacturing,” said Maher. “But today we are struggling to bring new technology into a production environment. The HPAF will address this problem three-fold: Applying the most state-of-the-art manufacturing tech to industry; Exponentially reducing the length of design-build-test cycles; And employing novel designs enabled by these rapid cycles.”
This construct is designed to help the U.S. regain competitiveness in a critical technology where peer nation-states appear to be gaining ground. Recent press accounts indicate that other countries are expanding infrastructure for building missiles capable of flying at speeds faster than MACH 5 (3,800 miles per hour). For example, China has reportedly built 2-3 times the number of factories than the United States dedicated to such manufacturing and Russian forces are accelerating their own deployment as well. Their governments’ aim is developing nuclear and tactical capabilities to overwhelm U.S. defenses.