Step Towards Delivering First Operational Hypersonic Scramjet
Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Northrop Grumman have successfully test fired a scramjet-powered Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept, or HAWC, for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the US Air Force, the companies announced on 27 September, confirming they are on track to deliver a prototype system to the DoD.
Launched from an underwing mounting, a solid rocket motor boosted HAWC to supersonic speeds, where the scramjet engine ignited and accelerated the missile, enabling it to reach hypersonic flight and exceed Mach 5. The test validates the ability of HAWC’s airframe and propulsion system to reach and cruise at hypersonic speeds.
“This is a history-making moment, and this success paves the way for an affordable, long-range hypersonic system in the near term to strengthen national security,” commented Colin Whelan, VP of Advanced Technology at Raytheon Missiles & Defense. “This test proves we can deliver the first operational hypersonic scramjet, providing a significant increase in warfighting capabilities.”
Scramjet engines use high vehicle speed to forcibly compress incoming air before combustion, to enable sustained flight at hypersonic speeds – Mach 5 or greater. By traveling at these speeds, hypersonic weapons like HAWC are able to reach their targets faster, allowing them potentially to evade defence systems.
“We have reached a milestone in delivering a game-changing capability to the warfighter,” said Dan Olson, VP/GM of Northrop Grumman’s Weapon Systems Division. “Decades of learning advanced manufacturing techniques and industry partnerships helped us define what is now possible.”
Last year, the two companies agreed to develop, produce and integrate Northrop Grumman’s scramjet engines onto Raytheon’s air-breathing hypersonic weapons. The agreement enables both companies to combine capabilities to accelerate development and demonstrate readiness to produce the next generation of tactical missile system.