In collaboration with Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Missiles and Defense announced on Monday the first successful flight test of its scramjet-powered Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), a hypersonic missile for the US Air Force.
Raytheon describes the test as “historic,” revealing that the companies remain on track to deliver a prototype system to the US Department of Defense.
Vice president of Advanced Technology at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, Colin Whelan, said that the success of the initial test “paves the way for an affordable, long-range hypersonic system in the near term to strengthen national security.”
“This test proves we can deliver the first operational hypersonic scramjet, providing a significant increase in warfighting capabilities,” he added.
In the test, an aircraft carried the HAWC under its wing and released it. Seconds after release, a solid rocket motor successfully boosted the HAWC, validating “the ability of HAWC’s airframe and propulsion system to reach and cruise at hypersonic speeds,” Raytheon’s report stated.
The hypersonic missile was reportedly able to achieve speeds greater than Mach 5.
Achieving Mach 5
The HAWC system is able to achieve Mach 5 thanks to its scramjet engine. According to Raytheon, a scramjet “forcibly compress(es) incoming air before combustion to enable sustained flight at hypersonic speeds.”
With this capability, the HAWC system is able to bypass most missile defense and detection systems.
For comparison, the US Tomahawk, a subsonic cruise missile, has a speed of 885 kph (550 mph).
Raytheon and Northrop Grumman will continue to work on the HAWC under a $200 million contract with the US Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.