The Pentagon is exploring hybrid manufacturing to drive supersonic expansion. | So Good News
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon wants to use a high-tech process called additive manufacturing to design and build hypersonic weapons and vehicle systems that can operate in extreme conditions.
As the US Department of Defense looks to field its first hypersonic capability by fiscal year 2023, officials have stressed the need to shore up the industrial base and ensure a smooth transition of programs from development to production. With an initiative called Growing Additive Manufacturing Maturity for Airbreathing Hypersonics, or GAMMA-H, it targets the materials and processes used to travel and maneuver above Mach 5.
For the proposals released on October 28, the department asked large companies, Microscale as well as academics to present prototype proposals for developing supersonic components using additive manufacturing; Utilizing computer-aided design software, building components often required importing advanced materials.
“We need to push the envelope with materials manufactured using an additive manufacturing process,” Kevin DeVries, deputy director of the Defense Department’s Manufacturing Technology Program Office, said in a statement. “The science has shown it is possible, but the practice is not yet widespread. GAMMA-H will encourage adoption of more established technology.”
Components used to build supersonic sound systems must operate under extreme conditions. Advanced specifications and materials that withstand high temperatures and other mechanical stresses are required. The essence of GAMMA-H is the fact that additive manufacturing technologies can improve the quality of those parts and reduce the number of parts needed to build a vehicle or weapon.
The Navy is leading the effort in partnership with the Manufacturing Technology Program Office. The deadline for nominations is Dec. 12, but the department is aiming to move quickly on the selection process, although no timeline was given.
Speaking at a defense news conference in September, Pentagon acquisition executive Bill LaPlante said the department and its industrial base needed to focus on these manufacturing challenges to prepare for increased production.
“You have very difficult materials, thermal management issues, aerodynamic issues,” he said. “So production is an art. If you haven’t done it before or haven’t done it for a Fri time, you have to learn it again.”