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Falcon HTV-2 - Pentagon to test 2nd near-space strike craft Weapondesigned for urgent threats

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Old November 26th 10, 05:18 AM posted to rec.aviation.military,sci.military.naval,rec.aviation.military.naval
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Posts: 43
Default Falcon HTV-2 - Pentagon to test 2nd near-space strike craft Weapondesigned for urgent threats


Pentagon to test 2nd near-space strike craft
Weapon designed for urgent threats

Defense Department scientists are set to conduct a second test launch
next year of the Falcon HTV-2 experimental superweapon after the first
flight this year ended when the autopilot deliberately crashed the
unmanned glider into the ocean as a safety measure.

The Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle is designed to skim the top of the
atmosphere just below space, and is a key element of the Pentagon's
Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) capability — a program to
build non-nuclear strategic weapons that can strike conventionally
anywhere in the world in less than an hour.

In a statement last week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency (DARPA) revealed for the first time that the first test flight
April 20 ended when the autonomous onboard control system — the
computer autopilot flying the futuristic superweapon — "commanded
flight termination."

"When the onboard system detects [undesirable or unsafe flight]
behavior, it forces itself into a controlled roll and pitchover to
descend directly into the ocean," DARPA spokesman Eric Mazzacone
explained in e-mail to The Washington Times.

The DARPA statement said that an independent engineering review board
found that the flight was terminated after the plane began to roll so
violently that it "exceeded the available control capability" of the
onboard autonomous piloting system.

Specialists say such problems are expected in test flights.

DARPA said the board "reviewed and concurred with" a series of
remedial measures proposed for a second test flight next year, but
some analysts said the results of the first one raise questions about
the way the program has been run.

The $308 million Falcon HTV-2 is a suborbital near-space vehicle
launched on a Minotaur rocket, a solid-fuel booster built from a
decommissioned ballistic missile. On the very edge of the atmosphere,
in a procedure called "clamshell payload fairing release," the launch
missile deploys the plane, which is then supposed to glide above the
Earth at more than 13,000 miles per hour — more than 20 times the
speed of sound.

The Pentagon is developing a generation of such hypersonic weapons as
a way of being able to strike quickly at urgent threats — such as
preparations by terrorists or rogue states to use nuclear weapons.

The issue has been lent urgency by the recent nuclear arms treaty
negotiated with Russia. Specialists say the new generation of
hypersonic strike craft would not count against the limits the treaty
places on strategic weapons, although in treaty negotiations, U.S.
officials promised to discuss the new weapons in a treaty consultation

But some other proposals for CPGS systems, such as putting
conventional warheads on existing submarine-launched ballistic
missiles, would count against the caps set by START.

Falcon, being developed jointly with the Air Force, is just one of a
series of conventional long-range strike programs, including another
DARPA project called Arclight, and the Air Force's X-51, which
successfully test-flew a hypersonic powered flight technology called
scramjet — for "supersonic combustion ramjet."

A Congressional Research Service report on prompt global strike stated
that the program will develop weapons that can "strike globally and
rapidly with joint conventional forces against high-payoff targets"
using "attacks in a matter of minutes or hours — as opposed to the
days or weeks needed for planning and execution with existing forces."

The report said the HTV-2 was being produced by Lockheed Martin, using
technology developed for a precision-guided, maneuverable warhead
called ER.

A leading authority on hypersonic flight, Richard P. Hellion, former
chief historian of the U.S. Air Force, told The Times that the fiery
end to the Falcon's April test flight "raises serious questions about
how well DARPA conceived and executed the project."

The board found that the Falcon encountered a "higher-than-predicted
yaw" — when the nose of an aircraft moves from side to side. Because
aircraft get their lift from their wings, yaw creates roll, when the
plane starts to rotate around its horizontal axis as first one wing,
then the other, is pushed forward, generating lift first from one
side, then from the other.

According to the DARPA statement, the board found the Falcon had
experienced "a slow divergence about the longitudinal axis (in roll)
which continued until the roll rate reached a threshold where the
autonomous flight system commanded flight termination."

Inertial coupling, as flight scientists call the process by which yaw
generates roll, "is a very old problem," Mr. Hallion said, "It was a
killer in the early days of test flights" of the first supersonic
aircraft in the 1950s.

"It clearly remains a problem in hypersonic flight," he added, noting
that the Falcon "is basically a delta wing type vehicle," lacking the
large vertical surfaces like an aircraft tail that can be used to
control roll.

Mr. Hallion questioned whether DARPA had "made certain they had
adequate design analysis and [ground] testing before" the test flight.

"There are many unknowns" about hypersonic flight, said Mr. Mazzacone,
when asked whether DARPA had rushed into a test flight. "A significant
amount of preflight analysis was conducted. Which is in essence why we
need to fly again. … There's more to learn in this area," he added.

Mark J. Lewis, former chief scientist at the U.S. Air Force and a
professor at the University of Maryland, said that since the first
flight, the DARPA team had conducted "extensive post-flight testing"
of the Falcon at the world-renowned hypersonic wind-tunnel facility
called T-9 at the USAF Arnold Engineering Center in White Oak, Md.

"They have really tried to learn the lessons" of the failed ending to
the first test, he said, acknowledging that some might see this as
"closing the barn door" after the horse is already gone.

Mr. Lewis said such failures are to be expected when testing
technology — such as hypersonic planes — that pushed the limits of
engineering and of human understanding of aerodynamics.

"There cannot be 100 percent confidence in the outcome," he said,
"That's the nature of flight testing."

DARPA said in its statement that the independent engineering board had
"reviewed and concurred with" a series of remedial measures for the
next test flight.

"Engineers will adjust the vehicle's center of gravity, decrease the
angle of attack flown and use [a system of small onboard maneuver
rockets] to augment the vehicle flaps when HTV-2 flies next summer,"
said David Neyland, DARPA Tactical Technology Office director.

Arms control advocates fret about the impact of the new generation of
CPGS weapons. Congressional and other opposition killed a previous
proposal to achieve CPGS capability by fitting conventional warheads
to U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The concern was that
other nuclear-armed nations might mistake the launch of such a weapon
for the onset of a nuclear war.

Supporters of hypersonic weapons say that they would not be launched
from an ICBM site, and that the trajectory would be different from
that of a nuclear missile.

"It's a totally different flight profile," said Mr. Lewis.

But arms control advocates say the risk of a deadly mistake is still
too high.

"There is so much potential for confusion," said Matthew Hoey, a space
weapons specialist and arms control advocate, citing what he called
"the very degraded state" of Russia's space-based early warning

Nonetheless, Mr. Hallion said, long-range conventional strike weapons
will address novel threats — such as terrorist nuclear weapons — and
help reduce U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons as a strategic option in
more conventional conflicts.

"It's a way to turn fleeting intelligence into actionable
intelligence," Mr. Hallion said.

"If you know something is about to happen, you're able to do something
about it," with such a capability, he said.
Old November 30th 10, 01:53 AM posted to rec.aviation.military,sci.military.naval,rec.aviation.military.naval
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Posts: 105
Default Falcon HTV-2 - Pentagon to test 2nd near-space strike craftWeapon designed for urgent threats

Once again, mark II eyeball and wet ware would have maybe saved the

Old November 30th 10, 02:04 AM posted to rec.aviation.military,sci.military.naval,rec.aviation.military.naval
Jim Wilkins
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Posts: 57
Default Falcon HTV-2 - Pentagon to test 2nd near-space strike craftWeapon designed for urgent threats

On Nov 29, 7:53*pm, frank wrote:
Once again, mark *II eyeball and wet ware would have maybe saved the

Or given us another Mel Apt.


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