By next year the Army will have the capability to do just about everything it needs to run hypersonic projectiles except launch the missile, the three-star general over the program said.
Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood, director of the Armyâ€™s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, said the first joint flight test of a hypersonic weapon will happen next year and another test every six months will develop the tech until it can be fielded likely in 2022.
Developing the weapons on time is key for Army work in strategic fires as both China and Russia have made bold claims about their own capabilities in hypersonics research that can defeat conventional anti-missile defense systems.
Soldiers will fire the hypersonic glide body from a â€œtransporter erector launcherâ€ likely in 2021.
But before then, soldiers will get to practice with the system, but no live rounds, beginning next year.
Theyâ€™ll do loading and off loading canisters and use the command and control systems, which are similar to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, launchers and the Patriot systems, according to an Army release.
â€œThe reason weâ€™re going to do that is because we need them to start training,â€ Thurgood said. â€œSo, when we get to the first (live round) shot a year later, theyâ€™ll actually know what it looks like.â€
He spoke at the annual Association of the U.S. Armyâ€™s Land Forces Symposium in late May.
The command and control system is the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System 7.0, already in use by Army artillery units.
â€œWeâ€™re using a kit we have because the Soldiers know how to use it already and thereâ€™s already a school set up to use that,â€ he said.
The 30-foot-long launchers are transported by four Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks, or HEMTTS, and trailers, according to the release.
The system will eventually go to an Army battery that could be part of the Multi-Domain Operations Task Force the Army first used last year in the large-scale Rim of the Pacific joint, multinational maritime exercise.