WASHINGTON — The Texas A&M University System board of regents has approved the funding to create a new hypersonic weapons test center for U.S. Army Futures Command.
On Thursday, the regents voted to spend $79.3 million of university funds on the project, dubbed the Bush Combat Development Center. The state of Texas already approved $50 million, with the Army kicking in another $65 million.
The plan, first unveiled last August, is to develop a kilometer-long enclosed tube that can be used for hypersonic weapons tests, along with testing grounds for air and land combat vehicles on the university’s RELLIS research campus, located an hour outside of Austin, Texas.
The campus will also feature “laboratories, runways, underground and open-air ranges and a resilient network of sensors and systems for experimentation, data collection, analysis and storage,” according to a university release. The RELLIS campus has already been used to test other priorities for Army Futures Command, including autonomous land vehicles.
“Texas A&M and the RELLIS campus will become a nexus for collaboration and high-tech testing in service to our nation’s security,” Elaine Mendoza, chairman of the A&M System board, said in a statement. “Today’s vote will bring hundreds of millions worth of private investment to Central Texas as these facilities come to life. Simply put, this is where American defense contractors will want to set up shop if they want to work with the U.S. Army Futures Command.”
Stood up in July 2018, Army Futures Command has the lead in developing next-generation technology for the Army. Gen. Mike Murray, head of the command, has made it a priority to develop ties with the local tech community and the university structures around Austin.
Hypersonic weapons are capable of flying faster than Mach 5, which is the speed of sound. Their maneuverability makes them incredibly difficult to track with current missile defense systems. The Army and Navy are jointly developing the Common-Hypersonic Glide Body, which in March had a successful first test.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.