DARPA’s Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapons Concept (HAWC) just completed its third successful flight in early July. HAWC’s third test allowed the exploration of flight and scramjet engine envelopes. Read DARPA’s full press release below:
DARPA’s Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), a missile program conducted in partnership with the U.S. Air Force, completed another successful free flight in early July. This is the second demonstration vehicle built by Raytheon Technologies to meet test objectives. The first Raytheon flight was in September 2021. It was followed by success with a different contractor’s vehicle configuration this past spring.
This second flight of Raytheon’s HAWC design leveraged data collected during the 2021 flight. After release from an aircraft, the first stage boosted the vehicle to the expected scramjet ignition envelope. From there the missile’s Northrop Grumman scramjet engine fired up and propelled the cruiser to speeds greater than Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound) for more than 300 nautical miles and reaching altitudes higher than 60,000 feet.
“This most recent test allowed exploration of more of the flight and scramjet engine operating envelopes,” Andrew “Tippy” Knoedler, HAWC program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “DARPA demonstrations are always about learning, whether it’s in the interest of feasibility or practicality, and this time we certainly got new information that will further improve performance.”
Air-breathing vehicles use air captured from the atmosphere to achieve sustained propulsion. The speed and maneuverability of such hypersonic cruise missiles allow both evasion of defenses and quick strikes.
“The Navy and Air Force will have access to the data we’ve collected as they make development decisions for future high-speed weapons,” said Knoedler.
The HAWC flight test data will help validate affordable system designs and manufacturing approaches that will field air-breathing hypersonic missiles to warfighters in the near future.
Just this past week DARPA also successfully achieved all test objectives for its Operational Fires (OpFires) system. OpFires’s goal is to develop a ground-launched, two-stage, propulsive system capable of launching hypersonic payloads from ubiquitous military trucks. Read DARPA’s full press release below:
DARPA’s Operational Fires (OpFires) program has successfully executed its first flight test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The OpFires system achieved all test objectives, including first ever use of a U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) logistics truck as a medium-range missile launcher, missile canister egress, stable flight capture, and use of U.S. Army inventory artillery fire control systems to initiate the test mission. Lockheed Martin built the system, which includes a Northrop Grumman rocket motor, and conducted the test.
The test demonstrated integrated technology maturation of key enabling components including the first stage rocket motor, missile canister, and missile round pallet (MRP). The MRP is designed for use with the load handling system available on USMC and Army logistics vehicles, eliminating the need for a bespoke OpFires transporter erector launcher (TEL).
“This is a promising step toward a TEL on-demand capability for accurately firing medium-range missiles from highly agile, readily available logistics trucks that are already in both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps inventory,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Stults, the DARPA program manager for OpFires. “Our successful agile hardware development approach prioritizes full-scale flight testing that will inform further design maturation this year.”
The primary goal of OpFires is the development and demonstration of a ground-launched two-stage propulsive system capable of employing hypersonic (greater than five times the speed of sound) payloads from ubiquitous U.S. military trucks (the Palletized Load System family of vehicles) that can penetrate modern air defenses and precisely strike time-critical targets. Compatibility with existing command and control, vehicles, logistics infrastructure, and operating environments ensures that OpFires is highly mobile and rapidly deployable.
“The OpFires program is a great example of how DARPA, in partnership with industry, is helping the Department of Defense facilitate rapid development and testing of advanced hypersonic technologies to accelerate the delivery of transformational warfighting capabilities,” said Michael White, principal director for hypersonics in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.
The OpFires program will complete an integrated system critical design review in 2022.
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