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ArcLight

The ArcLight program will design, build, and flight test a long range (> 2,000 nm) vehicle that carries a 100-200 lb payload(s). ArcLight is based on an SM-3 Block II booster stack, a hypersonic glider and is capable of being launched from a Mark 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) tube. The development of the ArcLight system will enable high speed, long range weapons capable of engaging time critical targets and can be launched from Naval surface and sub-surface assets, and Naval/Air Force air assets.

The primary intent of the ArcLight Program is to design, build and flight test boost/glide vehicles that have the following goals:

  • Range 2000 nautical miles
  • Flight time of up to 30 minutes
  • Carry 100 lb minimum payload
  • Compatible for launch from a standard Mk 41 VLS, when integrated with the system
  • Survivable in defended airspace.
On 07 July 2010 DARPA\TTO announced [DARPA-BAA-10-63] Phase I of the ArcLight program to significantly advance enabling technologies for high speed, long range strike weapons. ArcLight is a demonstration program to design, build and flight test a boost/glide vehicle capable of carrying a 100-200 pound payload over a 2,000 nautical miles range in approximately 30 minutes. The operational version of the boost/glide vehicle will be launched from a Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) compatible booster stack. Demonstration of this vehicle will make it possible for the US Navy capability to engage tactical, long range, time critical, threats to the US with conventional weapons and provide the Air Force with a long range, time critical strike capability.

There are currently 8,500 VLS tubes in the US Navy including those based on cruisers (CG-47), destroyers (DDG-51) and submarines (SSN, SSGN). Deploying operational systems with an ArcLight Vehicle as the payload on Navy platforms will offer a game changing warfare capability. The ability for worldwide coverage from several ships reduces the need for having less capable strike assets forward deployed and enables tactical and political flexibility. The cost of launching a comparable strike from CONUS is significant, likely to limit use of such a system and provides an opportunity for adversaries to observe launches from fixed sites. Based on compelling results from feasibility studies and a Phase III Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), DARPA believes this program will be a ground breaking way for the Navy and Air Force to engage deployed, time-critical targets.

The primary intent of the ArcLight program is to design a boost/glide vehicle, the ArcLight Demonstration Vehicle (ALDV), which is to be built and integrated with an off-the-shelf surrogate booster in Phase III, and launch it as the ArcLight Demonstration System (ALDS). Multiple teams will launch an ALDS in Phase III of the program to demonstrate the capability. In parallel, the program will track an ArcLight Operation System (ALOS) with an ArcLight Operational Vehicle (ALOV) as a payload for an Mk 41 VLS compatible system to ensure the ALDV has traceability to a system to be fielded. DARPA expects that prime proposers will have in-house expertise in the area of hypersonic flight, including associated vehicle design, trajectory analysis with guidance navigation and control, high temperature materials and ability for assembly, integration and test of their ALDV.

ArcLight Phase I will first focus on the design of an ALOS with primary emphasis on the conceptual design of the ALOV. This activity should include trade studies on technologies that might increase the range of the ALOS. At the completion of the trade studies the ALOS and ALOV should undergo a Conceptual Design Review (CoDR).

Following the CoDR for the operational systems, the work should focus on the design of the ALDV, maintaining traceability to the operational system. In addition, the ArcLight program will not support the development of new technology for the booster stack, but, rather is focused upon the enabling technologies and development of the ALDV as its payload. Effort to characterize the booster stack will only be permitted to a level that is sufficient for design and definition of the ALOS and ALOV. Likewise, the only propulsion efforts that will be considered part of the program are those that apply to the ALOV or ALDV's portion of the trajectory. ArcLight will also not fund the development of Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC), sensors\seekers, Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) or the ALOV payload, however, technologies that would offer tremendous improvement in capability, with potential for development in future programs, should be identified.

DARPA desires that performers use their ALOS conceptual designs to develop a Concept of Operations (CONOPs) and a Military Utility Analysis (MUA). DARPA expects this effort not to exceed 10% of the total effort in Phase I. The MUA should be developed to the point that the performers demonstrate the capability and survivability of their ALOV when faced with defended airspace in a relevant threat environment.

In Phase II, Technical Area One performers will concentrate on further refining their ALDV designs and performing the necessary testing in arcjet and aero thermal wind tunnels to substantiate a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) at the end of the phase. Full scale testing of the actuation systems and validation of the program performance goals is expected. Performers will also further develop the design maturity of their ALDS and work with the Government team to identify surrogate launch boosters, test ranges and other requirements for a successful test in Phase III.

In Phase III, Technical Area One performers will progressively mature ALDV design and technology to a Critical Design Level, manufacture a boost/glide vehicle, participate in integration of the boost/glide vehicle with a surrogate launch vehicle, and flight test at relevant conditions. The Program Office intends to manage procurement of the launch vehicles, launch range access and support, data collection assets, and integration of the ALDVs with the launch vehicles for the flight testing in Phase III.



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