Russia is using French missile technology to develop a new, ultra-high speed nuclear attack missile, the House Armed Services Committee disclosed this week.
At a hearing Tuesday on U.S. and foreign long-range, rapid attack capabilities, known in the Pentagon as prompt global strike, the chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee, Rep. Mike Rogers, made public a document outlining French-Russian hypersonic missile collaboration.
According to the document, which is labeled “unclassified,” the graphic reveals how the French defense company MBDA Missile Systems and ONERA, the French national aerospace research center, are working with Raduga, a Russian missile manufacturer, and Rosoboronoexport, the Russian state arms company, to develop a hypersonic missile capable of reaching speeds of Mach 4 to Mach 8, or 3,069 miles per hour to 6,138 miles per hour.
Rogers said the hypersonic vehicle appears to be “a new nuclear weapon delivery system,” and questioned retired Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, a former commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, about the weapon.
“In general terms, I would be concerned about technology transfer to any potential adversary,” Kehler said. “Whether Russia is an enemy is open for some conversation but I would be very concerned about technology transfer to any of the potential adversaries.”
The chart describes the flight test sequence of a Russian jet-powered hypersonic missile launched from a Tu-22 bomber and initially powered by a first stage derived from an “AS4” missile.
After accelerating, the jet-powered missile flies for between 20 and 30 seconds at Mach 4 to Mach 8 over a distance of up to 25 miles before crashing. The missile send telemetry signals to an airborne receiver during the flight.
LEA flight test program started in 2003 by MBDA-France and ONERA to
address the key issue of the aeropropulsive balance of a dual-mode
ramjet powered vehicle in the range Mach 4 to 8. A development
methodology has been defined for such type of vehicle, together with the
numerical and experimental tools enhancement to enable predicting the
flight performances with suitable accuracy. This methodology is now
being applied to a minimal size experimental vehicle, called LEA shown
in Figure 1, which had passed the preliminary design review in 2006, and
passed the Detailed Design Review in 2009. Finally, several flight
tests will be performed at the end of the program to validate the
quality of performance prediction after application of the development
methodology, which will therefore be validated. Several are to be
performed between 2013 and 2014, operated from a Russian test range and
using Russian hardware for initial acceleration.
flight experimental composite, FEC shown in Figure 2, is composed of
three parts: the LEA experimental vehicle, the Inter-Stage (ISS) and the
booster. The inter-stage is designed to keep the LEA attitude in good
conditions relative to the booster one for the separation and to stand
all flight loads and those of landing when the dropping down order
haven’t been given.
main stages of the flight experiment are shown in Figure 3. The
experiment begins with a boost phase, when the FEC consisted of the
experimental vehicle LEA and a booster is dropped from a carrier
aircraft at an altitude of approximately 12000m at supersonic Mach
number. When the FEC reaches the specified conditions in dynamic
pressure and Mach number, its propulsion is turned off. During a brief
period, the FEC is controlled to achieve the good conditions as angles
and angular rates to obtain the separation order. At this point the
dynamic separation occurs until the mechanical contact between those
vehicles stops. To ensure the separation between LEA and the booster, a
pushing beam is used. The beam is resting on the two uprights formed by
the lateral panel of the engine. Hereafter, the booster and LEA vehicle
come into a free flight condition phase. Following the mechanical phase
the engine test begins quickly after the inlet door has opened. Finally,
LEA enters on a non-propulsive phase and is not recovered. The useful
experiment flight time lasted approximately 10s.
ONERA-MBDA France LEA Hypersonic Vehicle
ONERA Lea - scramjet powered hypersonic vehicle
From 2006 Annual report:
Onera is working on the definition of an aircraft capable of reaching a speed of Mach 8 in the atmosphere. This type of hypersonic vehicle could be used for a number of applications: fast strike missile, space launch, highspeed, long-range observation drone, etc. To validate its numerical modeling and various technologies (aerodynamics, propulsion, materials, thermal design, etc.), our teams are working on a demonstrator dubbed Lea, which should start test flights in 2011.
TOURS, France — Full-scale wind tunnel tests of the LEA, the European hypersonic technology demonstrator vehicle, are poised to get under way in France, setting the stage for the buildup to flight tests in Russia.
Although details of the dual-mode ramjet powered vehicle project are increasingly difficult to ascertain, program officials confirm that it is ready for testing under Mach 6 flight conditions in the specially modified S4 wind tunnel in the French Alpine city of Modane.
The LEA hypersonic test vehicle is in development by MBDA and the French research agency Onera, and is scheduled to be air-dropped from a Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 “Backfire-C” supersonic bomber.
Laurent Serre, program manager for LEA flight test at Onera, says the concept will be “validated by flight tests at Mach 4 to Mach 8. Flight tests are scheduled in 2014 and 2015, and preparations are under way for full-scale free jet tests at Mach 6 in the S4 blowdown wind tunnel.” Serre was speaking at the Space Planes and Hypersonics conference here, organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the AAAF, which is its French equivalent.
In the run-up to the final round of French wind tunnel tests, which originally were scheduled for early 2011, Russia’s Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI) has completed captive-carriage and release wind tunnel tests of a Tu-22M3 model fitted with the LEA hypersonic test vehicle. For the actual test, the 4.2-meter-long vehicle will be accelerated to ramjet transition speed using a booster derived from a modified Raduga Kh-22 (AS-4) anti-ship missile supplied by Russia’s Tactical Missile Corp.
The combined stack will be 12 meters long and weigh around 5.6 tons. Target drop altitude will be 42,600 ft. at a separation speed of Mach 1.7. Four planned test shots were originally planned from Zhukovsky over a Russian range in 2013-2015, and it is not known if the compressed schedule still allows for all of these to take place.
The LEA vehicle will be boosted to speeds between Mach 4 and Mach 8 for between 20 and 30 sec., of which at least 10 sec. is expected to be powered solely by combustion within the vehicle’s dual-mode ramjet/scramjet. If light-off is successful, the LEA is expected to fly under autonomous control for up to 40 km before running out of fuel and terminating on the Russian range.