As set out in fiscal year 2023 (FY23) budget documents released earlier in 2022, the USN is seeking a hypersonic anti-surface warfare (ASuW) capability, to be delivered under the OASuW Increment 2 programme – now known as the Hypersonic Air-Launched Offensive (HALO) ASuW requirement.
Captain William Hargreaves, the USN’s HALO programme director in Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR’s) Precision Strike Weapons Program Office (PMA-201), told Naval News on 12 August:
“HALO is envisioned to be a long-range, aircraft carrier-based, strike fighter aircraft-launched weapon system providing ASuW capabilities,”
“OASuW Increment 2 will address advanced threats from engagement distances, allowing the navy to operate in, and control, contested battlespace in littoral waters and anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environments,” Capt Hargreaves added. Pointing particularly to the hypersonic requirement, “The ability to engage targets in a timely manner is an important attribute to fleet stakeholders, with significant increase in speed being a derived attribute,” he continued.
The USN’s OASuW Increment 1 requirement, to provide a long-range anti-ship missile (LRASM) capability, is being met by the Lockheed Martin AGM-158C LRASM system. In April 2021, the USN completed an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) process to support procurement of additional OASuW capability.
The AoA requirement did not specify the need for hypersonic capability, although the requirements to be met under Increment 2 have always been present within the USN’s OASuW threat perspective. “The [initial] solicitation was general in order to provide for inclusion of any technical solutions,” Capt Hargreaves explained. “Increment 2 is expected to address threats from increased ranges [and] defenses that are more sophisticated.”
“The HALO program continues to deliver OASuW kinetic capability, albeit at increased range compared to Increment 1 and at a speed that affects the pace of battle. Hypersonic capabilities provide the ability to engage targets in a more timely manner, relative to current long-range weapons. This is critical when attempting to affect the pace of battle. We must be able to mitigate the threat and do so in a timeframe that limits the enemy’s ability to react.”
Captain William Hargreaves, HALO programme director at NAVAIR
The need for speed is reflected in HALO’s planned development schedule, which is designed to deliver capability to the operator as fast as possible. “Initial deployment timeframes are a primary consideration as we finalize the acquisition strategy and prepare for execution in FY23,” said Capt Hargreaves.
As regards taking forward the Increment 2 capability acquisition, “We intend to focus initial development efforts for HALO on developing key technologies through the use of prototypes. Rapid maturation of key technologies supporting extended ranges and increased speeds will be key attributes of our initial prototyping efforts,” said Capt Hargreaves. “The HALO program office is working closely with industry on determining those technologies available to meet requirements.” For the first steps, he added, “We are focusing HALO development on maturation of propulsion technologies, with particular emphasis on aircraft carrier and F/A-18 Hornet aircraft integration.”