Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA)



(Based loosely on the HCSW)

Rapid Prototyping: How might we use multiple rapid prototypes to explore various solutions and mature an emerging capability?

Costs & Funding
Prototype Development
Test and Demonstration
Prototype Operation & Sustainment

Reference Source: Guidance from OUSD(A&S)


A military service seeks to mature critical technologies to high speed flight and accelerate the weaponization of hypersonic strike capabilities. Accordingly, they initiate prototyping activity to develop a pair of candidate solutions with different glide body designs to simultaneously explore multiple approaches to hypersonics. The team references the DoD Prototyping Guidebook 2.0, which says “Planning evaluations should begin as early in the planning process as possible to ensure that the type of evaluation and the environment will provide the data and information needed to satisfy the prototyping project’s purpose.” 


Because this is an MTA effort being developed under DODI 5000.80, the requirements are not subject to the full JCIDS process. Instead, the project team writes a system requirement document that is short, simple, and narrowly focused on developing a variety of hypersonic glide body prototypes to explore the various candidate solutions.

The requirements document is produced, reviewed, and approved in coordination with operational and user community representatives before the development effort moves forward. After each prototype is developed, the requirements are revisited and updated to provide direction for the next prototype.

The intent of this approach to requirements validation is based on the DoD Prototyping Guidebook’s recommendation to “use the simplest and least expensive representative model possible (rather than an expensive final development article) to quickly determine the value of an approach, concept, or technology through incremental development and evaluation.” 


The contracting strategy involves issuing a pair of Other Transaction Agreements, with the iterations and related costs segregated in the agreement. If an iteration must be repeated, it’s easy to pull that info together on the contracting side. Similarly, if one of the prototypes doesn’t pan out (as in this scenario), this strategy allows the program office to easily terminate that particular line of effort. 


The funding comes from OSD’s Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration fund, which sponsors this important project with joint equities.  The program takes advantage of the ACTD funds to submit a formal budget request at the next budget cycle to plan the follow-on activities needed to scale this prototype if successful. 


The schedule for this prototype is deliberately short, with delivery of the initial set of prototypes within two years, to be followed by additional variants over the next two years. The specific delivery dates for prototypes 2.0 and beyond are not specified, beyond establishing an expectation that each prototype should build on the previous.

Final residual operational capability is scheduled to be provided four years after program start date. This is one year less than the statutory limitation of 5 years for MTA efforts, and it provides the option of continuing for a fifth year if necessary.

However, the service decides to terminate one of the prototypes after the critical design review (CDR). The program’s cancellation is not due to poor programmatic performance. In fact, the project successfully met all developmental milestones leading up to CDR. Instead, the cancellation is an acknowledgement that the prototype’s glide body design was found to be sub-optimal during the review, and no further investigation is needed. As the DoD Prototyping Guidebook explains, “by their nature, prototypes should be expected to “fail” frequently—that’s part of the prototyping and learning process.” Thus this effort is viewed as a successful learning outcome, since the prototype was able to quickly and inexpensively demonstrate the shortcomings of the proposed design.


The design pioneers significant advancements in hypersonic technology development and integration of existing, mature technologies for use in various hypersonic efforts across the Department of Defense, including Army, Navy, and Missile Defense Agency programs. These advancements serve to expedite the generation and demonstration of various hypersonic weapon capabilities in the near future. To again quote the DoD Prototyping Guidebook, since “prototyping is meant to generate a data set to inform a future decision, a prototyping project “succeeds” if it provides that data set—even if the prototype itself does not work as it was intended to work.” Success and failure in prototyping has less to do with the prototype itself and more to do with the data that the prototyping project generates. 


The effort terminates prior to the final test and demonstration phase.


The effort terminates prior to sustainment.

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