HALO: The US Navy's New Hypersonic Missile

The Navy intends to equip its F-35s and F/A-18s with the Hypersonic Air-Launched Offensive, a next-generation air-launched hypersonic missile HALO, to destroy adversary ships at sea from the air.

This is a critical capability designed to give maritime strike forces an unprecedented advantage in quickly tracking and destroying enemy targets at ranges of several hundred miles.

What is the Next Phase of HALO : 

In order to move on to the following round in 2024, two industry heavyweights, Lockheed and Raytheon, are developing prototype missiles.

We know very little about the technology that makes this platform possible and much less about the testing or development of the HALO to this point; yet, the very existence of such a weapon raises the possibility of hitherto unimaginable tactical advantages. However, much of the weapon’s success will likely depend on the efficiency and sophistication of its guidance systems.


Secret technology

There is usually a lot of secrecy around these kinds of technologies. If HALO had the ability to detect and destroy moving targets beyond the radar horizon using cutting-edge guidance technology, manned ships could safely maintain a safe distance while being vulnerable to attack from the air.

The Army is moving forward with its Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon, a ground-based hypersonic breakthrough expected to arrive this year. After a failed test, the Air Force has just discontinued its air-launched hypersonic rapid-response weapon, but the investigation will continue with a view to a possible resumption.

Despite some similarities to the ARRW, the Navy’s HALO will open up new assault options for ship-launched aircraft thanks to the incredible velocities of hypersonic missiles. With its stealth and HALO hypersonic cruise missile, an F-35C could hit land, sea, and air targets from behind enemy lines. A contractor-derived rendering of the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile, or HACM-Raytheon.

The Navy also has other weapons.

The Navy already uses the long-range, semi-autonomous, air-launched anti-ship missile, which is capable of adapting to moving targets in flight with a degree of autonomy. 

Equivalent or greater autonomy for HALO would mean that the missile would operate with high-speed, computer-assisted autonomous navigation, so it could be directed into a whole new sphere of targets.  If the HALO were enabled for autonomous flight, it could be fired into the air and locked onto new or maneuvering targets.

Launching it from the ocean to track and destroy enemy force installations, equipment, and platforms from fixed distances provides a strategic advantage for US forces.

The Navy will be reinforced.

At the same time, there will be an even greater impact on enemy forces, supplies, and warships should there be some degree of autonomy with HALO.  This is critical technology, as it breaks new ground by introducing a hypersonic cruise missile, a weapon that could take out enemy ships far offshore in a “blue water” war.

A major maritime confrontation between rival powers in the open sea, hundreds or even thousands of miles offshore, can take place outside the range of most ground-fired missiles, a scenario in which HALO could be impactful.