The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has successfully completed the final flight test for the scramjet-powered Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) programme.
The test series was undertaken to provide critical data to support the US Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) hypersonic technology maturation efforts.
It involved the launch of the HAWC missile from a US Air Force’s (USAF) B-52 bomber aircraft.
Following the launch, the weapon system’s initial stage boosted it to the projected engine ignition envelope.
With the help of the Aerojet Rocketdyne-built scramjet engine, the missile then accelerated to fly at an altitude exceeding 60,000ft, farther than 300nm, and at speeds of Mach 5, which is greater than the speed of sound.
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DARPA said that the Lockheed Martin team achieved all stipulated mission objectives, showcasing enhanced performance and capabilities of the missile system.
USAF HAWC programme deputy Walter Price said: “This month’s flight added an exclamation point to the most successful hypersonic airbreathing flight-test programme in US history.”
The country now has two missile designs to support future hypersonic capability maturation efforts. The design teams include the Lockheed Martin team, and the Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Northrop Grumman team.
DARPA is planning to continue its efforts to analyse more data for maturing the hypersonic weapon system, even though the final phase of the HAWC programme is complete. This effort will be referred to as the More Opportunities with HAWC (MOHAWC) programme.
MOHAWC will allow DARPA to develop and test more HAWC vehicles that will expand the operating envelope of scramjet to deliver technology on-ramps for future programmes of record.