The US military has settled on development of a scramjet-powered "waverider" vehicle as its candidate for an inexpensive hypersonic stand-off missile, according to US Air Force Lt Col Walt Price, the Affordable Rapid Response Missile (ARRM) programme manager.

Development of a Mach 6.5tactical missile employing a solid rocket booster and scramjet for use against time-critical, heavily defended targets began a year ago with a $10 million advanced technology demonstration contract awarded to Boeing Phantom Works by the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.

In July, the agency determined that the waverider concept, which rides its own shock wave for reduced drag, offers greater range than a competing conventional axisymmetric vehicle powered by an Aerojet-developed dual combustion ramjet. The waverider's hydrocarbon-fuelled supersonic-combustion ramjet will be developed by Pratt & Whitney.

The only firm requirement for the ARRM is an average unit flyaway price of $200,000, assuming a 3,000-missile buy. The 1,135kg (2,500lb) weapon is intended to be launched from aircraft, warships and submarines. A production version would have a minimum range of 740km (400nm) and a time to target of within 7min. The US Department of Defense is seeking service entry around 2010, should the development succeed. The ARRM would primarily be fitted with a 114kg unitary or penetrator warhead, although it is also designed to carry the Northrop Grumman Brilliant Anti-Armor Technology submunition.

In the 18-month first phase, Boeing has built components and conducted low-cost manufacturing research. Price says the waverider's preliminary design review will take place by November, leading to a 30-month, $40 million demonstration phase.

Source: Flight International