Moving Forward on Conventional Strike Missile

The Air Force issued a notice last month saying it intends to task Lockheed Martin with developing a “payload delivery vehicle” for its conventional strike missile concept. The PDV would essentially be the shroud that protects the CSM’s weapons payload while the missile is en route at hypersonic speeds to the target. The service said it wants the PDV to be ready for a 2012 flight demonstration. The notional CSM is a modified Minuteman III ICBM that carries a conventional weapons payload instead of a nuclear warhead. CSM is a leading contender to be the prompt global strike weapon that US Strategic Command wants at its disposal by 2015 to deal with extremely time-sensitive targets around the globe when there are little or no other military options. The Air Force has talked about basing CSMs at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. The Air Force’s notice states that the PDV would be based on Lockheed’s design for the hypersonic test vehicle-2 that the company is building for DARPA under the Falcon hypersonic research program, but “modified to accommodate a weapon.” DARPA plans to fly the first of two HTV-2 units before the end of the year over the Pacific Ocean; the second flight test will occur in 2010. Those flight tests are meant to validate that these unpowered air vehicles can withstand the rigors of high Mach speeds and execute some controlled lateral maneuvering.