U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer sits on the flightline at Orland Air Force Station, Norway, March 14, 2021.
U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer sits on the flightline at Orland Air Force Station, Norway, March 14, 2021.

US Defense Department Working With Norway to Develop THOR-ER Ramjet

The U.S. Defense Department and the Norwegian Ministry of Defense jointly announced in April that they will partner on the development of an advanced solid fuel ramjet that could find use in supersonic and hypersonic weaponry. The Tactical High-speed Offensive Ramjet for Extended Range, or THOR-ER, involves research by the U.S. Navy’s Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, California, and the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment and Norwegian industry partner Nammo Group to develop supporting technologies that in the future could be incorporated into a high-speed weapons program. The THOR-ER development incorporates the results of long-term research and development on missile and rocket technology in Norway. Nammo Group’s contribution to the project along with its strong track record from partnering with U.S. missile primes.

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron takes off from Ørland Air Force Station, Norway, March 14, 2021.
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron takes off from Ørland Air Force Station, Norway, March 14, 2021. (Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Colin Hollowell)

“The THOR-ER effort aims to cooperatively develop and integrate advancements in solid fuel ramjet technologies into full-size prototypes that are affordable, attain high speeds, achieve extended range, and culminate in flight demonstrations in operationally relevant conditions for land, sea and air applications. THOR-ER also seeks to lay the framework for future co-production decisions. It’s important to engage on this topic early to remove any hurdles that will make co-producing – if that’s the route we take — prohibitive because we thought of the requirements too late,”said Air Force Col. Corey A. Beaverson, director of Mission Prototypes, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, which is overseeing the project.

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Norwegian soldiers and U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force Europe 21.1
Norwegian soldiers and U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force Europe 21.1, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, conduct a Joint Terminal Attack Controller training event in Setermoen, Norway, March 8, 2021.

Solid fuel ramjets are a propulsion technology that enables supersonic speeds with long ranges in small packages so missiles can fit on most aircraft. A ramjet uses the missile’s forward motion to compress the air for combustion without a compressor or moving parts. It is possible that ramjet technology could extend the range of a comparable-sized solid-fuel rocket by three or four times. the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office to provide support to THOR-ER and work with Norway because it aligns with the JHTO’s efforts to collaborate with key allies with significant expertise in crucial hypersonic technologies to close U.S. most critical science and technology gaps to deliver game-changing hypersonic capabilities to the joint fight.

Nammo solid fuel ramjet
Nammo solid fuel high-speed ramjet

THOR-ER is an Allied Prototyping Initiative (API) effort under the Directorate for Advanced Capabilities within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. The THOR-ER effort aims to cooperatively develop and integrate advancements in solid fuel ramjet technologies into full-size prototypes that are affordable, attain high-speeds, and achieve extended range, culminating in flight demonstrations in operationally relevant conditions. The effort will also consider potential U.S. and Norwegian co-production opportunities.THOR-ER continues collaborative research efforts involving the U.S. Navy’s Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division China Lake; the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment; and Norwegian industry partner Nammo.

U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer sits on the flightline at Orland Air Force Station, Norway, March 14, 2021.
U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer sits on the flightline at Orland Air Force Station, Norway, March 14, 2021. (Photo By: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Colin Hollowell)
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