Military Review

Achievements and prospects of the OpFires project

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The proposed look of the OpFires launcher


Currently, in the interests of the US armed forces, several hypersonic missile systems of different classes are being developed, incl. a number of ground-based systems. One such project, OpFires, is being commissioned and supervised by DARPA. It is expected that a ready-made missile system of this type will be able to expand the combat capabilities of the ground forces - but the army so far has shown only limited interest and has not yet included it in its plans.

Under development


DARPA launched work on the OpFires (Operational Fires) theme in 2017.The goal of the project was to create a hypersonic missile system with a range of more than 500 km. Then it was noted that a similar weapon will be able to improve the operational capabilities of the army, but will not contradict existing agreements. The Agency insisted that hypersonic systems do not belong to cruise or ballistic missiles, and therefore are not subject to the INF Treaty.

A number of commercial organizations have been involved in the OpFires program. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor responsible for major systems development and component integration. The individual components come from third parties. In particular, Aerojet, Exquadrum and Sierra Nevada Corp. are currently working on the propulsion system on a competitive basis.

To date, within the framework of OpFires, part of the design work has been carried out and tests of individual products are being carried out. In January, Lockheed Martin signed a new contract with DARPA for a new phase of work. Phase 3 provides for the development of technical requirements for a full-fledged complex with the subsequent development of the project. Contract value - USD 31,9 million

Achievements and prospects of the OpFires project
Principles of using OpFires

The finished design of the missile complex will be considered at the end of 2021. By this time, tests of various components will be completed, and the contractor will be able to begin assembling an experimental complex. At the end of next year, they are going to conduct separate tests of the rocket stages. Flight tests of a full-fledged product are going to be launched in 2022. The further course of events will depend on the success of the design, the presence or absence of problems and, which is important, on the wishes of the army.

According to the military ...


The Pentagon is showing an increased interest in hypersonic weapons and is already planning to adopt them. Together with other projects of this kind, the OpFires program received its support. Funding for hypersonic programs is constantly growing, which is expected to allow ready-made combat-ready models to be adopted over the next few years.

In the early years, the development of OpFires was carried out at DARPA's own funds, and then funding from the army began. In FY2020 it allocated 19 million dollars for the project. The draft defense budget for the next year proposed to issue another 28 million, but this proposal was not approved. Back in March, long before the budget was adopted, the army decided to abandon its participation in the OpFires project and excluded it from its plans for the development of troops.

However, DARPA and Lockheed Martin remain optimistic and are not going to wind down work. They believe that the OpFires complex should be created with an eye to the distant future. If the army is again interested in medium-range hypersonic systems, the Agency and contractors will be able to offer a ready-made sample. Accordingly, you don't have to waste time launching and developing a project from scratch.

Due to various difficulties and limitations, incl. due to the loss of army support, DARPA cannot yet determine the exact timing of the appearance of a ready-made model suitable for adoption. It is already clear that this will happen after 2023, when the Pentagon is going to receive a number of promising weapons. In addition, the Agency indicates completion of the work before the end of the decade.


Tests of different motors with cut-off

Profitable proposition


The goal of the OpFires program is to create a medium-range mobile ground-based missile system with a hypersonic warhead. To solve such problems, it is proposed to use well-mastered and completely new technologies. Due to the correct choice of solutions, it is planned to ensure an acceptable cost of the complex and ammunition for it, as well as to obtain improved combat characteristics.

The OpFires complex is planned to be built on a PLS five-axle multipurpose chassis. The cockpit of this machine will house all the control equipment, and a launcher will be located on the cargo platform for three transport and launch containers with missiles. Before launch, the rocket will be raised to a vertical position. The wheeled platform is expected to make OpFires a flexible and convenient tool for a wide range of tasks.

The missile complex will be equipped with the AFATDS tactical control system equipment. This is standard equipment for the US Army's artillery and missile systems, making it easy and quick to integrate OpFires into existing control loops.

For the complex, a rocket with increased characteristics is being developed using the boost-glide principle. The first stage is responsible for accelerating the rocket to hypersonic speeds and overcoming the dense layers of the atmosphere. Then the second stage will be included in the work, for which a new solid-fuel engine is being developed with the ability to change the thrust and shutdown. This function is positioned as an advanced technology and one of the main novelties of the program. It should provide a significant increase in fighting qualities.

The combat stage is a hypersonic gliding unit without its own propulsion system. Lockheed Martin reports that the combat stage from the AGM-183A ARRW air-launched missile, created according to the TBG project, will be used in this capacity. This product has a limited size, which reduces media requirements. According to recently published data, the speed of the hypersonic unit can reach 8M. Non-nuclear combat equipment is assumed.


An ARRW missile drops a hypersonic warhead - this is how the OpFires missile should work

According to DARPA's plans, the OpFires complex should hit ground targets with known coordinates at ranges of up to 1000 miles (more than 1600 km), which slightly exceeds the lower threshold of medium-range missiles. By changing the thrust and cutoff of the second stage engine, it is proposed to reduce the minimum range, but the exact characteristics of this kind were not disclosed. They will probably be determined only after the completion of engine development.

Technologies and plans


Until recently, DARPA, Lockheed Martin and other project participants could consider the OpFires missile system as a promising weapon that will enter service with the US Army in the future. However, the army has already abandoned direct support for the program and did not include it in its plans for the development of missile forces. As a result, the goal of OpFires was to search for and develop technologies for creating hypersonic missile systems - but without plans for direct introduction into the troops.

Some of these tasks have already been successfully solved, which contributes to the completion of the project in the near future. The plans to start flight tests in 2022 look realistic, but the developers are not overly optimistic about the completion date. In addition, the possibility of introducing a new missile system in the troops remains questionable.

The result is a very interesting situation. DARPA and its allies continue to develop the missile system, although it has not been ordered by the army. The army, in turn, supports the hypersonic direction, but finances projects with different features and capabilities. The first of them should go into service as early as 2023.

At the same time, the armed forces may change their minds about the OpFires project - and in this case, such a complex or its modified version will be brought into service as soon as possible. Otherwise, the result of the current project will be technology and experience suitable for use in future developments. Thus, the OpFires program will in any case give positive results, and only their nature depends on the decisions of the potential customer.
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Photos used:
DARPA, Lockheed Martin
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  1. Ka-52
    Ka-52 29 October 2020 05: 45
    +5
    The result is a very interesting situation. DARPA and allies continue to develop the missile system, although it has not been ordered by the army

    There is nothing surprising if you know what DARPA is, its goals and funding. Our counterpart, the Foundation for Advanced Study, is a duck limping in both legs. And he became famous only for the dubious program "Rescuer", popularly known as "Robot Fedor"
    The Agency insisted that hypersonic systems do not belong to cruise or ballistic missiles, and therefore are not subject to the INF Treaty.

    I immediately remembered the novel by A. Dumas, in which the priest baptized a capon into a carp and then calmly devoured it, regardless of the fast laughing
    1. BDRM 667
      BDRM 667 29 October 2020 05: 55
      +5
      I'm not sure if the scale is observed in the illustration, but the ratio of the sizes of the carrier stage and the warhead is questionable.

      Is the size of the warhead sufficientnon-nuclear to carry out the tasks assigned to it? What can be the mass of a warhead in such dimensions?

      An ARRW missile drops a hypersonic warhead - this is how the OpFires missile should work


      1. Ka-52
        Ka-52 29 October 2020 05: 59
        +2
        What can be the mass of a warhead in such dimensions?

        Well, a nuclear warhead with a capacity of 100kT has a mass somewhere of the order of 120-150kg. And the Americans are betting on such low-yield ammunition
        1. BDRM 667
          BDRM 667 29 October 2020 06: 03
          +1
          Quote: Ka-52
          Well, a nuclear warhead with a power of 100kT has a mass somewhere of the order of - 120-150kg

          But they write something about Warhead in non-nuclear performance.
          Non-nuclear combat equipment is assumed.


          Therefore, based on the dimensions in the illustration, doubts arose about the validity of the statement. And that a non-nuclear warhead is hardly possible due to its low power in such a small warhead.
          1. Ka-52
            Ka-52 29 October 2020 06: 07
            +4
            But they write something about a non-nuclear warhead ...

            I suspect that in this case the filling is unlikely to exceed 450kg. For the destruction of bunkers, in the manner of BLU-109 / B, it will be enough. Taking into account, of course, the kinetic energy that the warhead will receive at such a speed. They are unlikely to shoot such a bully to destroy a warehouse with footcloths laughing
            1. BDRM 667
              BDRM 667 29 October 2020 06: 10
              +4
              Quote: Ka-52
              To destroy bunkers

              Another "anti-bunker weapon"? Not enough for them?
              1. Ka-52
                Ka-52 29 October 2020 06: 13
                +1
                Another "anti-bunker weapon"? Not enough for them?

                well, all the rest require at least the approach of the aircraft carrier to the drop line (from 20 to 60 km for different options). What will be drawn by operators of long-range radar reconnaissance long before. But it is much more difficult to react to a hypersonic striking element.
        2. Vadim237
          Vadim237 29 October 2020 12: 45
          +1
          Well, a nuclear warhead with a yield of 100 kilotons has a mass somewhere of the order of 120-150 kg. ”This is how much the W88 warhead weighs and it has a thermonuclear charge with an adjustable power from 200 to 475 kilotons.
          1. Ka-52
            Ka-52 29 October 2020 12: 52
            +1
            Trident's W88 weighs more than 300kg. Within 150kg, the Americans have W80 and W84, which were installed on the CD. Both that and that within 200Kt of explosion power
      2. YOUR
        YOUR 29 October 2020 06: 31
        +1
        Quote: BDRM 667
        Is the size of the non-nuclear warhead sufficient to carry out the tasks assigned to it? What can be the mass of a warhead in such dimensions?

        At hypersonic speeds, kinetic energy alone is sufficient to hit many targets. For example, ships, missile silos, buried shelters ...
        1. BDRM 667
          BDRM 667 29 October 2020 06: 42
          +1
          Quote: YOUR
          At hypersonic speeds, kinetic energy alone is sufficient to hit many targets.

          It is clear that the head of cheese can be accelerated to such speeds that it can easily blow a concrete wall.
          Quote: YOUR
          For example, ships, missile silos, buried shelters ...

          And here it already rises guidance and control issue Warhead on the flight path, for hitting a relatively small target.
          Are modern systems capable of providing subtle maneuvering of warheads on hypersound for such a jewelry hit?
        2. Vladislav Demchenko
          Vladislav Demchenko 29 October 2020 12: 20
          0
          At hypersonic speeds, kinetic energy alone is sufficient to hit many targets. For example, ships, missile silos, buried shelters ...

          In this case, high accuracy of the controlled warhead is required.
          1. YOUR
            YOUR 29 October 2020 15: 16
            0
            Naturally.
      3. Sergey_G_M
        Sergey_G_M 29 October 2020 06: 49
        +3
        If the scale is correct, then knowing the diameter of the booster (AGM-183A ARRW is about 1 meter) we get approximately the length of the warhead - 1,3 m, width 35 cm.
        With such dimensions, there can be no talk of 450 kg, a maximum of 150 kg.
        Taking into account the body with thermal protection and control on the warhead itself, 50-80 kg will remain.
        1. BDRM 667
          BDRM 667 29 October 2020 06: 51
          +3
          Quote: Sergey_G_M
          If the scale is correct, then knowing the diameter of the booster (AGM-183A ARRW is about 1 meter) we get approximately the length of the warhead - 1,3 m, width 35 cm.
          With such dimensions, there can be no talk of 450 kg, a maximum of 150 kg.
          Taking into account the body with thermal protection and control on the warhead itself, 50-80 kg will remain.

          That's it what yes
        2. Ka-52
          Ka-52 29 October 2020 08: 54
          0
          If the scale is correct, then knowing the diameter of the accelerator

          let's not consider the advertising sketch as project documentation. In the future, such proportions will remain. Although the option of defeat only due to kinetic energy is also likely - the Americans love this concept and sculpt wherever possible (from Hellfire AGM-114R9X to THAAD complexes)
        3. Vadim237
          Vadim237 29 October 2020 16: 40
          0
          There are definitely different sizes.
      4. 501Legion
        501Legion 29 October 2020 19: 36
        0
        I wanted to ask the same question. is it too big for such a warhead, without a nuclear warhead
    2. APASUS
      APASUS 29 October 2020 14: 59
      +1
      Quote: Ka-52
      became famous only for the dubious program "Rescuer", popularly known as "Robot Fedor"

      Is this the robot Fedor, whom the cosmonauts pushed from the ISS into outer space and are not allowed back? laughing laughing wink
  2. Same lech
    Same lech 29 October 2020 06: 32
    +3
    the OpFires complex must hit ground targets with known coordinates at ranges of up to 1000 miles (more than 1600 km)

    As I understand it, the United States is planning to use such weapons in Europe against Russia and Southeast Asia against China ... the rest of the countries do not count in view of their insignificant military potential.
    In general, the arms race has begun.
    1. NEXUS
      NEXUS 29 October 2020 08: 21
      -1
      Quote: The same LYOKHA
      As I understand it, the United States plans to use similar weapons in Europe against Russia and Southeast Asia against China ..

      Neither one nor the other ... it is sharpened for use in a contactless version in wars with third countries, where there is oil, gas, diamonds, fine-grained metals, etc. ... only a complete down will be able to use something like this against a nuclear power, knowing that that the answer will arrive immediately.
      1. The eye of the crying
        The eye of the crying 29 October 2020 13: 23
        +1
        Quote: NEXUS
        fine metals


        good
    2. And Makarov
      And Makarov 29 October 2020 08: 22
      15
      You can apply it anywhere, in South America, in Africa, etc. I would recommend in Australia ...
      And the arms race never stopped yes
  3. Thrifty
    Thrifty 29 October 2020 08: 17
    -2
    Time will tell whether or not. And we need to continue to simply silently implement our similar military programs.
  4. d4rkmesa
    d4rkmesa 29 October 2020 09: 51
    0
    Hehe, perhaps we need a new missile for the Iskander. There is no need to rush, but a new "head" is already asking for itself.
    1. Vadim237
      Vadim237 29 October 2020 12: 48
      0
      It is better to create a new small-sized MRBM with the same planning controlled hypersonic unit - the experience on the Vanguard will be just by the way.
      1. d4rkmesa
        d4rkmesa 29 October 2020 16: 31
        0
        MRBM is an expensive thing, it would be nice to have something simpler and at the same time more in range ... potentially. Carrying out an arms race using the old methods is hefty expensive. A vanguard with a glider is probably not bad for replacing monoblock "Topols".
        1. Vadim237
          Vadim237 29 October 2020 16: 42
          -1
          Russia will pull quite 1000 such missiles within 200 million rubles apiece within 10 years of production.
  5. Operator
    Operator 29 October 2020 11: 33
    +2
    The OpFires project is nothing more than a two-stage ballistic missile with a detachable gliding warhead - a type of the project of the Soviet two-stage IRBM "Volga", developed on the basis of the serial Oka "Oka" and canceled in production due to the INF Treaty.

    "Oka" - the ancestor of the Russian "Iskadera": and the pens remember (C) bully
  6. ZEMCH
    ZEMCH 29 October 2020 14: 19
    +1
    For the complex, a rocket with increased characteristics is being developed using the boost-glide principle. The first stage is responsible for accelerating the rocket to hypersonic speeds and overcoming the dense layers of the atmosphere. Then the second stage will be included in the work, for which a new solid-fuel engine is being developed with the ability to change the thrust and shutdown. This function is positioned as an advanced technology and one of the main novelties of the program. It should provide a significant increase in fighting qualities.

    This is a two-stage ballistic missile with a non-maneuvering glider for firing at specified coordinates. They don't even remember about the scramjet))) wink