U.S. Army Delivers First Hypersonics Ground Equipment: “Dark Eagle” Missile Launchers

The delivery of the first prototype hypersonic hardware to Soldiers of the 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade

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The Army is prototyping the land-based, ground launched Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) that will provide residual combat capability to Soldiers by Fiscal Year 2023. Image: Staff Sgt. Kyle Larsen/U.S. Army

Hypersonics Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, Friday, October 8, 2021: The U.S. Army equipped the I Corps’ 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, with the nation’s first prototype hypersonic ground equipment.

Known as the Long Range Hypersonic Weapon, this land-based, ground-launched system will provide a critical weapon and powerful deterrent to adversaries.

Extremely accurate, exceptionally fast, maneuverable and survivable, hypersonics introduce a lethal combination that enable the long-range, rapid defeat of time-critical and high-value targets. Part of the Army’s No. 1 modernization priority, Long-Range Precision Fires, hypersonics are also one of the highest-priority modernization areas the Department of Defense is pursuing in its push for integrated deterrence.

The Army is celebrating the delivery of the LRHW hardware with a ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Oct. 7.

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Hypersonic Weapon Image from the U.S. Army article Hypersonics by 2023 Image: U.S. Army

“Today marks an important milestone in equipping our nation’s first hypersonic battery,” said Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, Director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space, and Rapid Acquisition, who also oversees the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office. “From a blank piece of paper in March 2019, we – along with our industry partners and joint services – delivered this hardware in just over two years. Now, Soldiers can begin training.”

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This prototype, being built under the direction of Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO), fields components of the LRHW to enable Soldiers to fully train with the system and build tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs). Image: Staff Sgt. Kyle Larsen/U.S. Army

Delivery of the hardware began in March 2021 and finished at the end of September 2021. The delivery includes a battery operations center, four transporter erector launchers, and modified trucks and trailers that make up the LRHW ground equipment.

The fielding to the 5-3 FA will be complete in fiscal year 2023. Delivering the ground hardware first will allow the Soldiers to train on the equipment, create doctrine for this first-ever system, and develop tactics, techniques, and procedures.

In executing hypersonics development and testing, the Army is closely linked with its joint service partners.

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McChord Field (Joint Base Lewis-McChord complex) is a United States Air Force base in the northwest United States, in Pierce County, Washington. South of Tacoma, McChord Field is the home of the 62d Airlift Wing, Air Mobility Command, the field’s primary mission being worldwide strategic airlift. The McChord facility was consolidated with the U.S. Army’s Fort Lewis on 1 February 2010 to become part of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord complex. This initiative was driven by the Base Realignment and Closure Round in 2005 and is designed to combine current infrastructure into one maximizing war fighting capability and efficiency, while saving taxpayer dollars. Click on image or click here for higher resolution. Image: Google Earth
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Joint Base Lewis-McChord complex is located about 31 miles S/SW of Seattle, WA. Click on image or click here for higher resolution. Image: SkyVector

In March 2020, the Army began a series of joint tests, focusing on range, environmental extremes and contested environments. The tests will be complemented by training events as the Soldiers learn to employ the new technology.

Throughout the prototyping effort, Soldier-centered design touch-points were embedded and were influential in developing the system. Soldiers are at the center of this effort and are a critical part of the design effort.

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