Small-Scale Air-Launched Hypersonic Weapon System

Navy SBIR 23.2 - Topic N232-093
NAVAIR - Naval Air Systems Command
Pre-release 4/19/23   Opens to accept proposals 5/17/23   Closes 6/14/23 12:00pm ET    [ View Q&A ]

N232-093 TITLE: Small-Scale Air-Launched Hypersonic Weapon System

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Hypersonics;Trusted AI and Autonomy

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate a scalable Hypersonic Surface Strike Missile airframe and propulsion system for integration onto a carrier-based strike aircraft (e.g., F/A-18, F-35).

DESCRIPTION: United States weapons development has been dependent for years on large Prime Contractors providing the majority of the design, fabrication, and testing of new systems. This approach has fielded high-quality weapons, but there are advantages in allowing smaller companies to contribute to innovations in weapons technology. Allowing for greater involvement by smaller companies will provide new innovative ideas and help speed up new technologies. This novel approach is necessary as near-peer adversaries have been investing in weapons technology at an increasing pace [Refs 2�4]. Any improvements in speeding up technology maturation and innovation would be beneficial to the United States.

Perceiving a real desire by leadership to approach future weapons development programs with a renewed effort to expeditiously develop and deliver game-changing capabilities to the warfighter at lowest cost, we must "think outside of the box". Looking at a Non-Traditional Weapons Development strategy utilizing small business has the potential to provide much faster development to initial operational capability (IOC) and at a significant fraction of the cost as compared to the historical approach. Not only would this approach save money and time in the development cycle, it has potential to add greater agility to the needs of the warfighter than the current approach used by the Navy.

Current air-launched weapons need improvements in both range, speed, and the ability to be deployed from multiple platforms to counter threats from near-peer adversaries. Many air-launched missiles and other projectiles that meet satisfactory range needs do not have the necessary speed to fulfill current mission requirements. Often these systems use turbine propulsion technology that limits them to trans-sonic speeds [Ref 5]. Other technologies tend to be larger in size, and are therefore limited in the platforms from which they can be deployed [Ref 6]. There is a need for propulsion technologies that can be used on smaller naval air-launched platforms with strict size and weight requirements that have significant improvements in speed and range. Many current hypersonic technologies in development tend to be larger in size and are not suitable for many of the Navy�s air-launched platforms.

The weapons system being sought is expected to sustain speeds higher than Mach 4.0, and have a minimum range of 350 nautical miles (648.2 km). This system is expected to support an internal payload of 150 lb (68.04 kg) in weight, have a length less than 15 ft (4.57 m), and an overall system mass less than 2000 lb (907.18 kg). In addition, an ability to fly at a wide range of speeds is required. Multiple propulsion technologies might be employed to meet these requirements, and may include (but are not limited to) advanced turbine technologies, solid and liquid airbreathing ramjets or scramjets, rotating detonation engines, or novel hybrid technologies. For this SBIR topic, a high-speed compliment or augmentation of the Navy�s Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD) weapons system is desired.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) formerly Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances. This will allow contractor personnel to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DCSA and NAVAIR in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advanced phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Design, develop, and demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed high-speed weapons system propelled by a selected propulsion technology to meet flyout requirements. A Preliminary Design Review (PDR)-level design of the vehicle and propulsion system will be expected that can meet the desired conditions, along with associated calculations, flyout predictions, and supporting analysis to assess the feasibility of the concept design. The vehicle must be designed with large-scale production and lowest life-cycle costs in mind. Subcomponent testing of key critical technologies and selected design features is encouraged during this phase. The Phase I effort will include prototype weapon system and manufacturing plans with estimated fly-away cost for five flight demonstration units to be developed under Phase III.

PHASE II: Fully develop and optimize the Phase I approach. Performance testing of the hypersonic propulsion system will be needed to validate the assumption and design proposed in Phase I. The performance testing will need to demonstrate operation in the high-speed environment for the predicted flight duration. The production/manufacturing plan will need validation through modeling and simulation. The M & S will be validated by actual component/piece part fabrication to validate the time-based prediction and Fly-Away estimated cost. Additionally, a plan and cost assessment needs to be developed to take the system into Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP).

Work in Phase II may become classified. Please see note in the Description paragraph.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Finalize development based on Phase II results for transition and integration to air-launched platforms. Conduct flight tests from Navy-provided launch platforms, demonstrating the required performance parameters in the field. Establish a pilot production capability and manufacture five airframe bodies without energetics. Provide validation on the time-based production of the propulsion system. Payload integration of government-furnished equipment (GFE) will be a consideration in Phase III.

The technologies and manufacturing approaches generated in this topic can be transferred not only into missile systems for the DoD, but into commercial/military aircraft and drones. Such technologies can be applicable to any long-range, time-critical payload delivery and/or Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR).


  1. Stone, R. (2020, January 8). �National pride is at stake.� Russia, China, United States race to build hypersonic weapons. Science.
  2. AP News. (2021, October 4). Russia test-fires new hypersonic missile from submarine.
  3. Reuters. (2021, October 17). China surprises U.S. with hypersonic missile test, FT reports.
  4. Airforce Technology. (2014, June 29). Miniature air launched decoy (MALD) flight vehicle.
  5. Wilson, J. R. (2019, May 1). The emerging world of hypersonic weapons technology. Military & Aerospace Electronics.
  6. Department of Defense. (2006, February 28). DoD 5220.22-M National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (Incorporating Change 2, May 18, 2016). Department of Defense.

KEYWORDS: Hypersonics; high-speed; long-range; propulsion; missile; weapon


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 23.2 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

The DoD issued its Navy 23.2 SBIR Topics pre-release on April 19, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on May 17, 2023, and closes June 14, 2023 (12:00pm ET).

Direct Contact with Topic Authors: During the pre-release period (April 19, 2023 through May 16, 2023) proposing firms have an opportunity to directly contact the Technical Point of Contact (TPOC) to ask technical questions about the specific BAA topic. Once DoD begins accepting proposals on May 17, 2023 no further direct contact between proposers and topic authors is allowed unless the Topic Author is responding to a question submitted during the Pre-release period.

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Topic Q & A

4/20/23  Q. The solicitation states that "The Phase I effort will include prototype weapon system and manufacturing plans", does this mean Phase 1 deliverables are, in addition to manufacturing plans, a prototype weapon system (hardware), or *plans* for a prototype weapon system (drawings and technical data)?
   A. The phase 1 deliverable is a plan for the prototype weapon system.
4/20/23  Q. Please clarify the target payload weight. It is 150 lb? Or is it 350 lb (158 kg)?
Does the Navy have specific payloads in mind for integrating into the design during Phase 1?
   A. The payload weight was 150 pounds, which should have said 68 kg in parentheses. The Navy does not have specific payloads in mind.
4/19/23  Q. The Phase description requires that "The vehicle must be designed with large-scale production and lowest life-cycle costs in mind." For the purpose of focusing production strategies, does the Navy have target production lot sizes? Tens? Hundreds? Thousands?
   A. Try to target thousands, the more the better.
4/19/23  Q. The description for phase expects " A Preliminary Design Review (PDR)-level design of the vehicle and propulsion system ". Does the Navy have entry criteria for Technology Readiness Level or Manufacturing Readiness Level?
   A. For technology readiness assessment material please see The Navy does not have different entry criteria than the Department of Defense. For more information on Manufacturing Readiness level�s please see

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