Navy seeking prototype to reduce safety infrastructure needed for hypersonic testing

By Justin Katz / October 23, 2020 at 11:51 AM

The Navy is looking for a prototype system of systems that would reduce the cost of flight-testing hypersonic weapons by minimizing the number of safety assets required for each assessment.

"The Autonomous Flight Safety System (AFSS) is a system of systems that integrates both airborne and ground-based components to provide an enhanced alternative to the traditional flight safety approaches that are currently being used by nearly all launch complexes and government ranges today," according to a request for solutions published by Naval Surface Warfare Crane, IN this week.

The solicitation is being managed by the Strategic and Spectrum Missions Advanced Resilient Trusted Systems, which describes itself as a "rapid" other transaction agreement contracting vehicle. The project's budget is $6.5 million.

"Existing range safety systems rely on tracking radars and other systems which are expensive to operate and maintain," according to the RFS.

"The goal is to provide an on-board Autonomous Flight Termination Unit (AFTU) that independently assesses flight and vehicle performance against mission parameters and provides termination capabilities without the costly support infrastructures," the RFS continues.

The Pentagon earlier this year established a Joint Hypersonic Transition Office, Inside Defense reported.

"The JHTO's primary responsibilities include creating and maintaining a science and technology roadmap aligned to the [Office of the Secretary of Defense] hypersonics roadmap, enhancing and accelerating [science and technology] efforts in the most critical areas on the roadmap, workforce development and engaging with universities and foreign allies," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Carver said at the time.

Earlier this month, the JHTO established a systems engineering field activity at the Crane naval base.

"The field activity will coordinate architectures, interfaces, schedules, and plans to transition a more modular, affordable, and upgradable hypersonics portfolio of capabilities and technologies," according to an Oct. 15 Pentagon statement.

"The Systems Engineering Field Activity has four engineering focus areas: system architectures and guidelines, science & technology management, transition management, and modeling and simulation," the statement continues.