Here Comes HALO: The Navy plans to arm its F-35s and F/A-18s with a cutting-edge breakthrough air-launched hypersonic missile called Hypersonic Air-Launched Offensive to destroy enemy ships at sea from the air.
This is a critical ability designed to give maritime attack forces an unprecedented advantage to quickly track and destroy enemy targets from distances of several hundred miles away.
Next Phase of HALO
Two industry giants, Lockheed and Raytheon, are building prototype missiles with the hope of being selected for the next phase in 2024. There are not a lot of details available when it comes to the specific technologies enabling this platform, and little information about tests or progress for the HALO thus far, however, the prospect of such a weapon introduces potentially unprecedented tactical advantages
. Much of the weapon’s success, however, would likely pertain to the effectiveness and sophistication of its guidance systems.
These technologies are often held in top-secret profiles with little information being disclosed. Should the HALO be able to track and destroy moving targets at distances beyond the radar horizon using advanced guidance technology, enemy ships could be at risk from the air while manned ships operate at safer stand-off distances.
The Army is making progress with its Long Range Hypersonic Weapon, a land-fired hypersonic breakthrough expected to arrive this year. The Air Force has just paused its Air-Launched Rapid Response hypersonic weapon following a failed test, yet research will continue for the purpose of an eventual restart.
While potentially similar to the ARRW in some respects, the Navy’s HALO will arm ship-launched fighters with new attack possibilities given the speed at which hypersonic weapons travel. A HALO-armed F-35C could use its stealth to penetrate enemy air defenses and then fire the hypersonic cruise missile to destroy land, air, and sea targets.
The Navy Has Other Weapons as Well
The Navy already operates the semi-autonomous, air-launched Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, which is able to adapt to moving targets in flight with some degree of autonomy. Equivalent or greater autonomy for HALO would mean the missile operates with high-speed, computer-enabled autonomous navigation and could therefore target an entirely new sphere of targets. Should the HALO be enabled for autonomous flight, it could be fired into the air and then adjusted to new or maneuvering targets while en route.
Launching from the ocean to track and destroy enemy force installations, equipment, and platforms from stand-off distances offers a strategic advantage for U.S. forces.
At the same time, an even greater impact will be placed upon enemy forces, supplies, and warships, should some measure of autonomy exist with the HALO. This is a critical technology as it breaks ground by introducing a hypersonic cruise missile, a weapon that could eliminate enemy ships far away from shore in “blue water” warfare.
A major maritime engagement between rival powers on the open ocean hundreds or even thousands of miles offshore may occur beyond the range of most land-fired missiles, a scenario in which the HALO could prove impactful.
Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.