U.S. Department of Defense picks Indiana for satellite hypersonics research facility

The U.S. Department of Defense plans to establish its Joint Hypersonics Transition Office Systems Engineering Field Activity hub in Indiana, bringing more research and development jobs and federal defense dollars to the state, the governor’s office announced Thursday.

The facilities will be located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, about 80 miles southwest of Indianapolis. A team of 30 engineers and program managers will be based there to support the program.

Hypersonic weapons can travel at least one mile per second and can maneuver through blind spots of missile defense systems—making them effectively invincible. The U.S. military is pushing to be the leader in hypersonic technology over other countries such as Russia and China.

The Joint Hypersonics Transition Office, or JHTO, is headquartered at the Pentagon and overseen by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

The new Indiana office will be considered a satellite facility where the current and future hypersonic programs will be integrated. The Indiana location for the JHTO will also develop strategies for transitioning hypersonics technologies into future capabilities and establish a university consortium for hypersonics research and development.

The office will supplement existing hypersonics research and development that has been taking place at the Naval Surface Warfare Center for years.

“NSWC Crane has become a critical hub in the hypersonics development ecosystem,” Rick Davidoff, acting director of the JHTO Systems Engineering Field Activity, said in a written statement. “The JHTO Field Activity at Crane will allow [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] to leverage earlier and ongoing investments at Crane to help all three Services improve their hypersonic weapons with more rapid, adaptable and modular upgrades. Indiana and the larger Midwest will have a long-term, critical role in this important national security mission.”

Congress has appropriated $100 million for the new program, and a portion of that will be spent on the research and development efforts in Indiana, but the specific direct investment is unknown.

The Department of Defense has already invested more than $200 million at the Naval Surface Warfare Center to enhance its testing verification and validation capabilities in hypersonics.

“Leveraging the capabilities at NSWC Crane, we can not only develop effective hypersonic technologies, but we can also develop them affordably at the speed of relevance to our warfighters,” Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Dr. Mark Lewis said in a written statement. “Proactive engineering for affordable upgrades is critical to the long-term sustainability of these systems.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb has made increasing defense spending in Indiana a top priority, making a goal of tripling defense spending in the state by 2025.

That would require defense spending to increase from $3.4 billion to $10.2 billion.

“Today’s announcement is another signal to the world that Indiana is poised to be a leader in hypersonics, with strategic assets such as NSWC Crane and our world-class research institutions fueling growth and advancements in the field,” Holcomb said in a written statement. “We’re excited the Department of Defense has chosen Indiana to establish its JHTO Systems Engineering Field Activity, and grateful to our state’s leaders in Washington D.C. and here at home for their commitment to increasing defense investment and opportunities in Indiana.”

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