This time last year, we wrote about the critical role hypersonic weapons and counter-hypersonic capabilities are going to play for our national defense and the importance of investing in our capabilities at the University of Arizona.
During the past 12 months, the Covid pandemic has changed the way we learn and interact with one another and reinforced the importance of investing in our research institutions.
While Covid certainly has had an impact on our daily lives, it has not eliminated the challenges we face from foreign governments and adversaries who see an opportunity to challenge American exceptionalism.
As was true a year ago, Arizona has an opportunity to be a major player in the new frontier of hypersonics — and investments are required.
Hypersonic systems travel and maneuver at Mach 5 or faster.
Russia and China continue to invest heavily to further develop their hypersonic capabilities, and our federal government has made great strides to encourage industry and university partnerships.
The Department of Defense will have operational systems in the field in the near future; its proposed budget through fiscal 2024 calls for upward of $10.5 billion in hypersonic weapons development, with $100 million dedicated to research partnerships between experts and educators through the establishment of the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office.
The opportunity for Arizona to become a leader in the future of hypersonic research is now.
Tucson-based Raytheon Missiles & Defense and the University of Arizona have long had a wildly productive relationship, partnering on research, manufacturing, and workforce development. In fact, Raytheon is hiring UofA engineers as fast as they graduate.
We continue to aggressively invest in our partnership this year. As home to the state’s only public wind tunnels, the University of Arizona has the equipment used to test high- speed weapons and understands the implications of high-speed flight and maneuvering. With three wind tunnels now operational, we must upgrade the infrastructure to test materials at speeds greater than Mach 5.
Picking up where we left off in 2020, Raytheon and the University of Arizona are requesting targeted, technical investment to achieve operational proficiency and maximize these wind tunnels’ capabilities.
Here’s what the wind tunnel upgrade means for Arizona:
- Industry can test and understand hypersonic travel in our own backyard, rather than shipping products to other states like Indiana or California. It is important to note that Raytheon is also a university customer and pays for its wind tunnel test time to understand how applied materials react in various environments, commercial flight, and even space travel.
- By keeping this research in Tucson, students and faculty at the University of Arizona not only are exposed to hypersonic technology, but they also have the opportunity to lead the nation in new research and technology advancement.
- As one of only a handful of available hypersonic tunnels in the United States, the University of Arizona is furthering its reputation as a magnet for uniquely talented students, researchers and professionals, opening opportunities to attract other space, flight, and defense companies.
There is tight competition for the future of hypersonic research. Indiana has made significant investments at Purdue and Notre Dame. To maximize our capabilities, the University of Arizona has partnered with Texas A&M to carryout federal research programs as directed by the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office — a huge win for our university.
Raytheon and the University of Arizona will continue to grow our existing partnership. We have an opportunity to support research and development for technology upgrades included in the state budget. Arizona lawmakers can ensure our state is at the forefront of hypersonic research by approving our small, yet strategically critical appropriation to allow state-of-the-art wind tunnel upgrades that will ultimately increase our ability as a nation to accelerate testing.
Wesley Kremer is president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense, and Robert Robbins is president of the University of Arizona.