A U.S. Defense Department and Norwegian Ministry of Defense project to jointly develop a solid fuel ramjet that could find use in supersonic and hypersonic weaponry will progress to the flight demonstration phase by 2024.
The Tactical High-speed Offensive Ramjet for Extended Range, or THOR-ER, involves research by the U.S. Navy's Naval Air Warfare Center and the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment besides industry partner Nammo Group to develop supporting technologies that in the future could be incorporated into a high-speed weapons program.
Early development work started in late 2019, and current plans call for the program to conclude by the end of 2024, a Pentagon release said today.
"By 2024, we hope to be able to not only have a flight demonstration but be able to transition the technology to the warfighter," Jeff Lipsky, Mission Prototypes, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering OUSD(R&E) was quoted as saying.
The THOR-ER effort aims to develop and integrate advancements in solid fuel ramjet technologies into full-size prototypes that are affordable, attain high speeds, achieve extended range, and culminate in flight demonstrations in operationally relevant conditions for land, sea and air applications, said Air Force Col. Corey A. Beaverson, director of Mission Prototypes, OUSD(R&E), which is overseeing the project.
Said Morten Tiller, Norwegian National Armaments director. "Not only will it provide a game-changing capability for our armed forces, it also brings bilateral cooperation to a whole new level."
Tiller explained that the THOR-ER development incorporates the results of long-term research and development on missile and rocket technology in Norway. ''Nammo Group's contribution to the project along with its strong track record from partnering with U.S. missile primes make me optimistic with regard to the prospects for co-production,'' Tiller commented.
''Solid fuel ramjets are a propulsion technology that enables supersonic speeds with long ranges in small packages so missiles can fit on most aircraft," Beaverson said.
A ramjet uses the missile's forward motion to compress the air for combustion without a compressor or moving parts, he explained. It is possible that ramjet technology could extend the range of a comparable-sized solid-fuel rocket by three or four times.