Boeing was awarded a $30 million contract to develop a supersonic ramjet missile demonstrator with and for the U.S. Navy's Air Warfare Center Weapons Division — called the Supersonic Propulsion Enabled Advanced Ramjet (SPEAR) flight demonstrator — which will help determine technical requirements for missiles capable of defending Navy carriers in the future, according to a press release on Boeing's official website.
Boeing planning supersonic ramjet missile for US Navy
While the balance of naval power between rival nations remains in continual flux, the potential threats naval vessels must anticipate are always changing.
For example, the aircraft carrier is a giant floating airfield — a bold expression of power and status for any nation in the 21st century. They greatly enhance military operations around the world — often without any help or direction from local bases, since they offer the means to both project power and provide instant and substantial aid to any local disaster that may happen nearby.
Boeing's supersonic ramjet missiles to protect aircraft carriers
However formidable a fortress at sea may be, aircraft carriers are also vulnerable — which is why they are typically escorted via a carrier group of specialized ships whose job is protection against enemy aircraft, submarines, or missiles.
While modern jet fighters are extremely efficient machines, they can't always guarantee protection against stand-off platforms capable of launching supersonic missile attacks from beyond the horizon.
This is the reason for SPEAR — to help strike fighters operating near aircraft carriers effectively counter threats without becoming more vulnerable than they have to be. Supersonic ramjet missiles aren't a new solution — they first saw deployment in the 1940s. But a solid-fuel ramjet missile like the MBDA Meteor, which can be transported via strike fighters is a newcomer to modern warfare.
US Navy aims to improve jet fighter survivability
Under the new $30 million contract, Boeing will work with the U.S. Navy to build a SPEAR demonstrator before late 2022 capable of yielding relevant technical information for carrier-based land and sea attack weapons systems, New Atlas reports.
"The SPEAR flight demonstrator will provide the F/A-18 Super Hornet and carrier strike group with significant improvements in range and survivability against advanced threat defensive systems," said Boeing's SPEAR Program Manager Steve Mercer, in the press release.
"We have a talented team of engineers to meet the challenging technical demands and schedule timeline that the SPEAR program requires. We look forward to working with Navy experts to advance technologies for the Navy's future capabilities."
Military powers upgrade arsenals amid global crises
While the world struggles to cope with multiple crises — including a global pandemic happening while crucial infrastructures adapt to slow the progress of the climate crisis — the leading military powers like Russia and China are upgrading defensive weapon systems — including a hypersonic scramjet vehicle from India's Defence Research and Development Organisation.
As the U.S. military's go-to weapons developer, Boeing's forthcoming supersonic ramjet missile demonstrator is only the latest in a planet-wide series of advanced weapons development, adding to the Navy's intimidating arsenal.