A recent setback means it’s unlikely that the Army will achieve its goal for fielding its first set of Dark Eagle hypersonic missiles by the end of the calendar year, according to the service’s top weapons buyer.
A critical flight test for the system was slated for Oct. 26 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, but it didn’t go forward as planned.
“I can’t go into details, but it was before launch when a problem was detected. So that’s why the test didn’t happen,” Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Doug Bush told DefenseScoop during a roundtable with reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
Bush declined to specify what the problem was, stating that it’s classified and program leaders are still doing root-cause analysis.
“After you have a test failure, you know, you take the thing back, take it apart, and the members of the team work through with the engineers on what exactly the failure was. And we’re doing that of course with the Navy. They are our partners in this program … I think we’re close to understanding what exactly the problem was, which will inform our path to getting back to testing,” he said.
The incident was the latest in a series of hiccups associated with testing the system, which was previously known as the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW).
“It definitely will make it very difficult to achieve our … end-of-the-year goal [for fielding]. Very unlikely we’ll achieve that goal. But at the same time, the capability is still absolutely needed. The Army is still fully committed to it. I think we’ll figure it out,” Bush said.
Hypersonic weapons — which are designed to fly faster than Mach 5, be highly maneuverable and overwhelm enemy air defenses — are a top modernization priority for the Pentagon.
The Army had aimed to field the Dark Eagle before the end of fiscal 2023, which came on Sept. 30. However, a flight test scheduled for September was postponed due to a weapons-related issue, and officials then said they hoped to field the system by the end of the calendar year. Now, it looks like that won’t happen.
“We’ll get the LRHW but it’s going to take more time, unfortunately,” Bush said during the meeting with reporters Tuesday.