- The Washington Times - Monday, October 26, 2020

The Pentagon is awarding Texas A&M University $100 million - to be doled out over five years - for the university to establish and manage an academic alliance to develop hypersonic weapons technology, one of the Defense Department’s top priorities.

Establishing a University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics (UCAH) is a critical step to advancing hypersonics research and innovation through a collaborative partnership between industry and the academic world, Pentagon officials said.

“It will also accelerate technology transfer and strengthen workforce development to meet the nation’s future warfighting needs,” said Michael Kratsios, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

The UCAH is expected to begin operations in the fall. It will be working in coordination with several other government agencies including NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy to pursue promising research into hypersonic technologies.

For decades, the United States and adversaries like China and Russia have sought the ability to manufacture missiles capable of traveling at hypersonic speeds, generally defined as Mach 5 or greater. Their speed and maneuverability makes hypersonic weapons difficult to counter with current anti-missile defense systems.

There have been challenges transitioning from Pentagon-funded basic research in universities through industry and finally operational applications, said Mark Lewis, Acting Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

“It is a particular challenge in hypersonics, where multiple disciplines must intersect precisely to move forward,” Mr. Lewis said. “The Consortium will help us link a deeper understanding of our operational requirements to the exceptional research being conducted across the nation.”

Initial operations at the consortium will begin under the guidance of national experts from leading universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, Purdue University, UCLA and the Georgia Institute of Technology, among others.

“This interest, leadership and focus they provided will help ensure the Consortium will be effective and that our nation’s best minds and researchers will be participating,” said Gillian Bussey, director of the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office.

Texas A&M’s Engineering Experiment Station will be managing the UCAH. It has already identified more than 41 institutions from 23 states that have committed to participate in the Consortium. That number is expected to increase in the upcoming months, including some from the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, Pentagon officials said.

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