U.S., Norway to partner on hypersonic missile propulsion systems

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A joint U.S.-Norwegian effort to produce solid fuel propulsion systems for hypersonic missiles was announced by the U.S. Defense Department on Monday.

The Tactical High-speed Offensive Ramjet for Extended Range project, or THOR-ER, will develop and integrate advancements in solid fuel ramjet technologies into full-size prototypes that are affordable, attain high speeds, and achieve extended range, Pentagon said in a press release.

The United States has admitted a gap in relevant technology, compared to Russian progress, in hypersonic missile development. The missiles remain in the atmosphere as they travel, unlike some ballistic missiles which briefly travel through outer space, but theoretically can achieve speeds of up to 15,000 miles per hour.

In December 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the deployment of the Avangard. It was said to be the first in a new class of missiles capable of reaching hypersonic velocity and hitting a target, potentially with a nuclear warhead, within minutes of launch from anywhere in the world. China and France also have also begun hypersonic missile programs.

The statement on Monday did not include a cost estimate, but said the THOR-ER program “continues collaborative research efforts involving the U.S. Navy’s Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division China Lake, Calif.; the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment; and with Norwegian industry partner Nammo.”

The Norwegian Defense Ministry has used its island air base, the Andoya Rocket Range, for hypersonic tests.

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