The U.S. military is moving a step closer to acquiring a hypersonic cruise missile with an air shot after the Advanced Defense Research Projects Agency (DARPA) successfully conducted a free-flight test of the hypersonic air-breathing weapon concept (HAWC) in partnership with the US Air Force, a press release said.
Hypersonic missiles are the new battlefield for the United States and its adversaries. In July this year, Russia said it had successfully tested its own hypersonic cruise missile, Tsirkon. The U.S. military is working on a number of hypersonic missiles after canceling plans for electric weapons earlier this year. The hypersonic cruise missile relies on an air-breathing engine to propel it to speeds greater than 5 Mach (five times the speed of sound).
The DARPA free flight test included a hypersonic cruise missile developed by Raytheon Technologies, which was launched by an unnamed aircraft. The rocket was accelerated to supersonic speeds by its solid rocket engine, Business Insider reported. Later, the scramjet engine, developed by Northrop Grumman, started and brought the rocket to speeds above 5 Mach. To do this, scramjet (supersonic combustion jet engine) the engine compresses the intake air and mixes it with hydrocarbon fuel before igniting this air mixture, leading to high drive speeds, the press release said.
DARPA lists a number of mission objectives for this flight, such as sequence of integration and release of the vehicle, safe separation from the airplane for launch, booster ignition and amplification, separation of the booster and ignition of the engine and cruise and confirm that everything is completed. US Air Force Rapid Reaction Weapons Hypersonic Missile (ARRW) failed to demonstrate twice these basic parameters for an air-fired weapon.
DARPA said HWAC performs best in an oxygen-rich atmosphere, where its maneuverability and high speed can make it virtually undetectable. Its hypersonic speed makes it an effective kinetic weapon even without explosives.
This was reported by Reuters that this is the first weapon test in this class since 2013, ”said Andrew Nodler, HAWC’s DARPA program manager. “This brings us one step closer to HAWC’s move to a record program that offers the capability to the next generation of the U.S. military.” No target date has been set for this transition yet.