The Department of Defense is working to secure the manufacturing base needed to support hypersonic capabilities as it moves from the developmental to the production stage.
Last month, the department issued a request for proposals to help it do so, asking defense contractors of varying sizes, as well as academia, to submit prototype proposals for developing hypersonic weapons parts using additive manufacturing.
Hypersonic weapons are systems capable of flying at speeds five times greater than the speed of sound, known as Mach 5. The weapons offer the potential for military operations from longer ranges with shorter response times, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The request supports the department’s Growing Additive Manufacturing Maturity for Airbreathing Hypersonics initiative. The aim of the program is to scale existing manufacturing processes to build parts for weapons traveling above Mach 5.
“Currently, traditional manufacturing processes are unable to meet the intricate geometric specifications that advanced hypersonics require,” the agency said in an Oct. 28 release. The initiative will support advanced additive manufacturing processes able to meet the propulsion and temperature requirements that hypersonic systems require.
“We need to be pushing the envelope with materials produced using the additive manufacturing processes,” Keith DeVries, deputy director of the OSD Manufacturing Technology Program, said in a statement. “The science has proven it’s possible, but the practice is not widespread enough.”
Through the request, small companies and non-traditional defense contractors will have opportunities to partake in defense manufacturing, helping to expand domestic readiness to support hypersonic production, according to the release.
“We are very interested in expanding our roster of partners – of all sizes – that are contributing to the hypersonic mission,” DeVries said.
Proposals must be submitted to the Department of Defense by midnight on Dec. 12.