US Hypersonic Programs



2019 became a defining year for US hypersonics. It is the year when it finally woke up from its slumber on the threat of hypersonics after having its butt kicked by the Russians and Chinese with their respective progress in fielding hypersonic weapons.

2019 saw announcements and funding of so many different programs that it became difficult just to keep track of them given the common use of acronyms. This thread is to provide it the appropriate space in reporting the progress of the different programs as 2020 and beyond will see significant activities.

There are however two main programs under the overall umbrella of US hypersonics as they include both offensive programs and counter programs i.e. defensive. Currently the offensive programs probably lead the counter programs by approximately 3 to 5 years in terms of the technological development ladder. This thread will report on both of these major programs as information become available.

The U.S.
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has committed to an upcoming four-year test campaign covering 40 flights and three basic vehicle concepts. They will lay the foundation for a comprehensive hypersonic weapon road map. A quarter of the tests, representing as many as 10 flights, will be focused on air-breathing scramjet-powered vehicles. The rest of the tests will be from both boosted glide vehicle flights and powered missiles. Collectively they will form the basis for an integrated development plan. The overarching road map will also include the integration of a counter hypersonic development strategy.

Summary of known programs and their funding

Known programs are only reported below as there are classified programs that for obvious reasons will not be covered.

Planned spending by year


The main thrust of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s counter-hypersonic strategy has just been revealed on December 5, 2019. The immediate emphasis is through the Regional Glide Phase Weapon System (RGPWS) prototype project to demonstrate an interception capability against a medium- or intermediate-range threat. This is probably in response to the Russian Advangard program and the Chinese DF-17 development. MDA’s latest effort with the RGPWS shows that it is moving faster to field at least a prototype counter-hypersonic capability than previous efforts suggested.

MDA down selected from initial 21 proposals to five concepts in late August and early September 2019 for a subsequent refinement phase. The selected proposals included four kinetic concepts based on existing boosters and one directed energy system.



A key test regarding the hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) technology i.e. Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) is central to DARPA’s development effort in driving the different programs forward. It has already seen some slippage in timeline and was reprogrammed to conduct a critical test before the end of 2019. This test is important in providing the necessary data to both the ARRW and HCSW programs that are planned to have their own respective first flight by end of 2020. Further slippage of TPG will put at risk the testing timeline associated with both of these programs.

A summary of the targeted first flights of the different programs are summarised below. The initial service date (ISD) of each of the programs are in my view aggressive but we shall see how well they progress in 2020.


ARRW update

Officials of the USAF announced in early Dec 2019 an order worth nearly one billion dollars to Lockheed Martin related to the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW). The $988.8 million contract modification asks Lockheed Martin for efforts toward ARRW critical design review, test, and production readiness support. The ARRW program seeks to mature critical technologies to high speed flight, and accelerate the weaponization of hypersonic strike capabilities.

The USAF conducted the first captive flight test of the ARRW on a B-52 strategic bomber aircraft last June at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The aircraft carried a sensor-only version of the ARRW to gather
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and aircraft handling data, but did not fire the weapon. The test gathered data on drag and vibration effects on the weapon and on the external carriage equipment of the aircraft. The flight test serves as the first of many flight tests that will expand the test parameters and capabilities of the ARRW prototype. Presently it is the only hypersonic weapon to be assigned an official designation i.e. AGM-183A.


Details of the flight testing was reported in a Warzone drive article which can be found in the attached link.

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"At present, the Department of Defense (DOD) has not established any programs of record for hypersonic weapons, suggesting that ..."

... there's a hypersonic bubble?


Tyrant King
The term you are looking for is Gap. But reality is the Russians and Chinese at this moment aren’t much farther along in technological Research and development. Despite the propaganda they are not ready for prime time and at the deployment stage.
The term you are looking for is Gap. But reality is the Russians and Chinese at this moment aren’t much farther along in technological Research and development. Despite the propaganda they are not ready for prime time and at the deployment stage.
later this morning read about money spent on Tyndal AFB repairs, which seemed to me to be higher than what's spent on hypersonic, but I don't care about either so didn't check, but if true it'd mean pocket money going into hypersonic


Senior Member
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I don't understand why the author cited hypersonic proof-of-concept projects like Project Mayhem and didn't mention the hypersonic Spear program, HyFly 2 and the Tactical Boost Glide. It is worth remembering that the HCSW is suspended until further notice, this is because the USAF's effort at this time is around the ARRW.

If possible, try to bring the discussion of hypersonic programs to this thread, it makes it easier for commentators to find information on the subject if it is posted in the appropriate thread.

Typical mindset of the US. It's not going to follow Russia and China on hypersonic development. It's skipping ahead. That's why don't expect large-scale high speed rail coming to the US. That's already been developed in other countries. The US isn't a follower. It's the leader. But the fact is the US just failed to get it going not because they can do it better.
The requirement for the Americans to break the Russian and Chinese missile defensive bubble is far less than the requirement for the Russians and Chinese trying to break the American defensive bubble. The American hypersonic missile programs are all for the purpose of attacking sensitive targets in critical time, the Americans still rely on their MIRVs to pierce the Chinese and Russian anti-missile defense layer.